If ever a brand needed to be repositioned, it’s “money.” Mention the word “money” and people think nothing but negative thoughts. Viscerally, most people associate money with something bad and always in the context of earning and spending. The economy hasn’t helped money’s brand image. It is a reference point in every negative story from unemployment to housing to the GDP. Money has been cited as the #1 reason couples fight and subsequently divorce. Hell, even BP drove the bus over money’s back. I can recite the line, “The BP disaster has cost the Gulf Coast region $23 billion” in the same way I can recite lines from children’s books I have read 1,000+ times — “Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light, and the red balloon…”
You would have to have lived under a rock to have never heard the quote, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” It is this very quote that sums up the negative brand image money is dealing with today. I think it’s time for a money brand makeover. I believe money can buy you happiness and some of the happiest moments in my life revolved around an experience with money. The difference is that it involved giving it away, not spending it.
About seven years ago, I read the book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America. My daughter was entering high school at the time and the book was required summer reading. The book is about the author who goes undercover and tries to live on various minimum wage jobs. Needless to say, she can’t survive on minimum wage and and the emotional and physical toll it takes on her is extremely disheartening. Having read the book, I have not been able to encounter an adult making minimum wage without wondering how difficult his or her life situation must be. Since reading the book, I have started a regular routine of finding a minimum-wage employee who looks like he/she needs a break and giving them $100 cash. Of all the wonderful things I have experienced in my life, I can say aside from the birth of my children, my wedding and my nephew being declared cancer free, nothing has brought me more happiness than these random acts of giving.
I remember being at a dumpy iHop on Easter morning a few years ago and watching a waitress race around frantically trying to keep up with what was clearly too many tables to manage. People didn’t look at her when they spoke to her and if they did, it was because they were yelling at her for something. She looked so ragged and defeated. I walked over and gave her $100. She burst into tears and hugged me as she told me of the horrific bad luck she had experienced and how much she needed the money. I proceeded to open my wallet and give her everything I had in it. While it made me incredibly happy to make her happy, the sadness I felt for her situation was overwhelming.
I look at what Bill and Melinda Gates are doing through their foundation and can’t help but see money in a positive light. I look at Alex’s Lemonade Stand and tear up hearing Alexandra “Alex” Scott raised over $1 million to find a cure for the disease that took her life when she was eight years old. The positive stories about money are endless and I find them awe-inspiring. These peeps are motivated by money in a way that will change the world one penny at a time.
So how does money reposition itself? Good question. Perhaps like many brands it needs to create a new category and dissociate itself from the current category. Maybe there should be something called “Good Money” and it can only be used in the context of giving, not accumulating, hoarding and spending. Instead of today’s money which creates a terrible divide between people, maybe Good Money can be used as a bridge to connect us. My guess is that Good Money could buy you happiness, love and a whole lot more.
What are your thoughts on how to change money’s brand image?
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