Life - on less than five dollars a day

13 Jul 2003|Darrel Rhea

Most of the world doesn’t have a pot to pee in, and it is time that we deal with it.

The vast majority (80%) of the people on this earth make less than $2000 a year. Let that sink in for a moment. How would your life (and your family’s life) be different on 5 bucks a day? What about $1 a day?

If you are a marketer or a designer, it means that just about everything you do will impact a very, very small fraction of the people on earth.

I’m not saying what you and I do doesn’t matter. If you are designing a titanium cell phone, it might matter very much to the person buying and using it — it might be a favorite possession that bestows a veneer of cool upon them. Marketing that new flavor of aerosol Cheese Wiz might make some happy snackers. Your new design for women’s jeans might be the fashion statement that helps the teen click with her desired clique. Or designing a software productivity tool might have so much utility that allows someone to buy a Bimmer. Really, this IS making a difference and it can be fun.

But let’s face it. We might be lucky if our products or services are relevant (or even understandable) to 10% of the world’s population. We can do work that matters very much to those select few, and do work that we can be proud of. But we aren’t changing the world. We aren’t using our considerable professional skills to make a difference on a grand scale.

But WHAT IF we could make a difference, a bigger game, make a contribution that really served those billions that don’t share our wireless/Starbucks/jet plane/Pentium/drive-thru reality? Could it be more fun, more fulfilling, and make us prouder of our life’s work than what we are doing now? Only you can answer that.

For me, the answer is yes. In my decades at Cheskin, we have touched a whole lot of commerce (hundreds of billions or perhaps trillions of dollars of commerce – literally hundreds of global brands, thousands of global products and services. Pepsi, Coke, McDonald’s, Intel, Microsoft, Citibank, Guinness, Motorola, HP, etc.) Most of it has been great, challenging work. I have been on the front-lines of marketing and design and am proud of how we have helped make brands and products meaningful to consumers. And I intend on doing a lot more of it.

And… I am looking for more. What if we could use the experience we have as marketers, researchers, designers, and leverage our knowledge of best practices to solve some of the world’s serious problems? Water, sanitation, healthcare, medicine, protein, income generation.

If we are as good as we say we are, we should be able to identify the products or services that the people who are “of the majority of those on this earth”… actually need. We should be able to design them to be useful, desirable, affordable, culturally appropriate, environmentally sustainable, and most importantly, we should craft a profitable business model that attracts businesses to build and distribute them.

(In comparison, designing for the wealthy should be like shooting fish in a barrel. Hell, sometimes we charge more for it just to make it more desirable.)

That is the conversation I am engaged in now. No blinding insights yet. But like-minded people are showing up and activity is starting. World-class talent, with world-class resources and connections. If you feel the same as we do, and have a desire to test your own ability to make a difference, let me know and I’ll loop you into the action.

Designers without Borders. Extreme Marketing. You game?

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