Wednesday, 22 April 2009

State of...Branding

There’s a storm a brewin’ in Toronto today. The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is considering a partnership with Future Shop. The deal would see Future Shop outfit two computer labs with state-of-the-art equipment in schools that cannot afford to do so on their own. In return, Future Shop would have the two rooms painted in the company’s signature colours (red and grey), receive a plaque of recognition, and the right to naming rights of the lab (they recently named a Surrey, BC classroom the Future Leaders Tech Lab).

Critics of this proposed deal state that allowing a corporation to come into the schools is to subject the children to waves upon waves of advertising and branding. Um, have you been outside recently? Billboards, bus shelters, movie theatres, ball parks, hockey arenas, subways, they all have advertising embedded into their purpose. Unless these critics are not allowing their children to play outside, or to watch TV, or read a newspaper, or listen to the radio, then they are already being bombarded by branding and advertising.

Critics also claim that allowing this type of partnership conflicts withe the goals of our public education system. The TDSB’s primary concern should be the education of their students. Taken directly from their website, the TDSB’s mission statement is “to enable all students to reach high levels of achievement and to acquire the knowledge, skills, and values they need to become responsible members of a democratic society.”

What these critics don’t understand is that without this funding the school board would be unable to achieve this mission statement. There is a reason that these labs need updated computers and it’s not because the board doesn't WANT to help…they can’t afford it! The money that is being provided by Future Shop, $100,000, would be put to great use and would allow those students the opportunity to “acquire the knowledge, skills, and values…” they need in order to become contributing members of society.

Would critics prefer that these students go without the proper tools they need to grow? It would be one thing if a fast food company wanted to come in and provide the food for all students and brand the cafeteria with golden arches. That could be argued that it was counterproductive to the growth of our youth (except in the girth area). This proposed deal will bring additional education to schools that are unable to provide it under the current budget constraints. How important is computer technology to the youth of today? Do these critics believe that computers are just fads and sure to fade away like beta-max?

I commend Future Shop for using this opportunity to promote their name and recognition. It’s a shame that their name is being chastised by some. They don’t have to make these donations. They could just as easily spend $100,000 on a :30 second commercial on some kids TV show. What they are doing is combining their advertising budget with the goodwill that more corporations should demonstrate. I'm not naive enough to believe that Future Shop is doing this just out of the goodness of their heart. They are certainly getting something out of this (future customers perhaps)...and why not? Why can't there be a 'I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine' mentality? Nobody is being hurt by this. Quite the opposite actually. These kids will be receiving new skills that they weren't able to acquire before this donation. It's a win-win.

For the cost of some new paint, a plaque, and a new sign these critics are willing to sacrifice the continuing education of our youth?!?! Shame on you!

Future Shop…expect to see me at one of your locations in the very near future! For all your electronics needs go here.


The full article can be found here...but the TDSB approved the partnership with Future Shop. The one part that I did want to bring attention to was this response:

Don Valley East Trustee Michael Coteau likened the painting to branding the TDSB board room with corporate interests. "To brand a room that children go into to learn is a very dangerous thing," he said. "None of us would agree to have Future Shop come in here and brand this boardroom."

And to that, I call "bulls%$t"! If a company were willing to pay $100,000 to paint the boardroom a different colour then the TDSB should also accept that. In fact, if anyone is willing to pay me to repaint ANY room in our house please call me ASAP! I'm willing to brand the hell out of the place. Want to put a logo on our dog? I'm open to that - for the right price.

They are closing down schools right now due to lack of funding. It is exactly this type of creativity that will keep schools open until the economy can get back on track. Again, shame on these critics for even suggesting that the alternative is a option. In a refreshing twist to most news - this story has a happy ending for everyone! Future Shop gets their branding. Students get their education. The TDSB gets to keep their school open. Great job everyone!!!

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