No matter what you think of Microsoft or the philanthopic efforts of Bill Gates, there is no doubt that Gates’ work is having a significant impact. It seems that Gates is now taking on the influences of writers such as CK Prahalad and Hans Rosling — and considering that money — that economic power, may not just be the force for change. In this WSJ article, Gates calls for a "kinder" form of capitalism that cares for the poor as well as the rich.
Dino Demopoulos discusses this in a great post, Doing Well By Doing Good. In it he touches on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and a renewed rejection of it by The Economist. But in a empassioned plea for a more inclusive future, Dino hopes that CSR is not stamped out in a purely rational vision of the corporate future:
Social entrepreneurism, "creative" capitalism or whatever else it is being dubbed is a good thing that we’re hearing more and more of. I know that sounds blissfully ignorant, kind of superficial and overly optimistic, but it’s what I believe.
The fact that Bill Gates has taken a step back to consider the short-comings of capitalism is a milestone. Not that the world’s richest man is proposing some radical change — he is simply focusing on an outcome that he wants to achieve and then considering and planning how he can get there. He is combining strategy with execution.
I think we should turn debate around a little and ask, how this approach applies to brands, to markets and to the consumers/marketers/strategists/participants in global conversation that we all are (in one form or another)? Sure we need to consider the business of marketing and of brands. We need to ensure healthy consumer relationships, brand equity and ongoing sales and profit margins. But these can no longer be seen in isolation … they have to be seen as part of the interconnected flow of economies that encompass our personal, professional, political, creative and ethical dimensions. All these impact our decision making, our identity and inform the choices that we make about who we work for and why, how we live our lives and how we spend our time and our resources.
It is time we thought through the holistic brand … and how it changes the way we define what it is that we "do".