Coca-Cola Gave Us Santa. Hanes Is Helping to Fight Homelessness.

HANES SALVATION ARMY HANES FOR GOOD CAMPAIGNThe Santa Claus we all know today — that big, jolly man in the red suit with a white beard — was brought to us by Coca-Cola. From 1931 to 1964, Coca-Cola advertising showed Santa delivering toys, pausing to read a letter and enjoy a Coke, visiting with the children who stayed up to greet him, and raiding the refrigerators at a number of homes. Those images stuck with us, and Coca-Cola influenced an entire culture to change.

The biggest problem facing homelessness today is most people believe that homelessness is the result of the homeless person, and therefor they should not be helped. But the truth is: it could be lack of affordable housing, the economy, or lots of complex situations people are powerless over that can cause homelessness. A good portion of the general public literally believes homeless people have no redeeming value, and that they are less than human!

Over the years, as homelessness has increased, American society has desensitized itself from the one crisis that truly affects us all.  Part of the reason is the general public receives their information from three sources, yet none actually share the real story of people experiencing homelessness.

  • Nonprofits spin the story to raise funds. That’s not a bad thing, they have to fuel their mission, but the general public is fed wrong information that creates disbelief and wrong stereotypes
  • Media spins the story to show homeless people as drug addicts and less than human, which again reinforces wrong stereotypes
  • Government likes to share data at an academic level. The general public does not really understand information distributed by governments.

Part of the problem is lack of funding for homeless awareness and education. We see anti-smoking campaigns and fasten seat-belt campaigns – all directed to change culture to save lives, yet besides my work with Invisible People and a few small hyper-local campaigns, awareness and education of homelessness does not exist.

They say necessity breeds innovation, which is how I started with cause marketing. In 2009, I was laid off from a 3 month grant at a winter shelter. I got the idea of a national road trip but needed a car, and more importantly – I was looking for a major brand to help fight homelessness. Ford Motor Company stepped up to help and for about two years my iPhone’s photos and YouTube videos synced to Ford’s website. Right around that time Chris Brogan took notice of the crazy amount of socks I hand out to our homeless friends and connected me to Hanes, and for the last 4 years Hanes has been helping me with socks and getting the word out about homelessness.

Let’s face it, people don’t listen to politicians, research professors, or nonprofit executive directors. But major brands and their marketing firms are experts at changing behaviors. Like how Coke gave us Santa Clause, Hanes is now helping to fight homelessness.

I’ve always been honored to work with Hanes, and this year I am beyond grateful that Hanes is celebrating the holiday by giving away 500,000 socks to people in need. Over the past five years, Hanes has donated 2.7 million socks during the holidays. But what I am proudest of the most, is the awareness campaign Hanes produced this year helping to show our homeless friends as humans.  What’s so amazing, and what makes this a genuine cause campaign, is there is no commercial anything attached. Hanes is just giving the socks away. No Facebook page to “like” and no marketing gimmick attached – just genuine generosity. Plus, Hanes created a social media campaign that showed real homeless numbers and helped share the stories of real people experiencing homelessness.  In turn, this content exploded on social media and may have in fact broke some social records, or at least came close!

I think there are a few lessons we can learn from this: funders who support ending homelessness need to start funding awareness and educational campaigns if we are ever going to really end homelessness. Unless we change what people think about homelessness, ending it will never happen! For brands, it’s OK to connect with the homeless cause. Brands can build mutually beneficial relationship with homeless nonprofits. The key is to be genuine in messaging and to not make the campaign over-the-top commercial. People are sick of the sales pitch, and by mixing it up and making the message about the cause and not the brand, the brand will in turn reap huge benefits. Probably the biggest benefit that is hard to measure, is how proud employees become when a brand does good things! Basically, the one simple lesson from all this I hope will resonate with everyone is: if you do good – good things will happen!

  • woodstock271

    My name Wayne Mesker , my position :
    I’m C.E.O. of Worldstock Entertainment
    a spiritually guided,philanthropically focused company headquartered in Cleveland ,Ohio.
    I have also been HOMELESS !
    Hope someday we will meet in person
    We have built a growing global network of creative artists, musicians, business owners/entrepeneurs,politicians,non-profit & humanitarian organizations/initiatives &
    caring/concerned human beings from every walk of life !!
    We’re trying to build a better world “One Note At A Time” .& homelessness is a major issue that we hope to combat.
    Please get in touch
    My number is 216-316-2379
    My E-mail is: [email protected]
    You’ll be surprised who we have on Speed Dial !!!


  • Thank you for showing us the truth about homeless.

  • KeithBender

    Housing Affordability is that paradigm shift you speak of. The only way rising tides raise all ships is being in the same safe harbor at the same time. California shares the same Article 1 Section 1 of their Constitution as Virginia has. Politicians in both jurisdictions and the Citizens all seem ignorant of what the Article means. The entire system must shift to make room for the “error” we have been perpetuating.

    Politicians try to be everything to everybody yet go to the highest bidder. And Yes! We have been conditioned to salivate when the Bell rings. Using the same Tactics but Putting People First ahead of profit is returning to the original basis of our Economy . We choose the Economy. That Economy must support Art.1 Sec.1 directly and not indirectly(maybe) Kinda sort of. The ALIGNMENT must start from that point.

    There is really no other place that it can. All other propositions are based on assumptions or expectations that what is right will somehow manifest itself. We have the basis and foundation . We need to understand the Jenga game and stop going building higher until we realign.The Right to Housing is how Safety and Happiness connect with Property.

  • dc matthews

    be nice if there could be a modern woodstock at Great Park Irvine CA to
    benefit homless vets in OC we 8th largest county in US have few helps
    and only 15 female veteran per deim beds. I’ve just rerurned to
    homlessness after no help via VA and County to prevent homelessness
    female and too many disability needs also had to drop out of school last
    minute not looking like will get local accessible housing or before
    school starts end of Jan. Now evicted and no one to defend vs discrims
    above or landlord revoking accomodations ( free legal does straight
    landlord tenant only) to help create I probably cant get any decent
    safe accessible before i lose school or before i die… then safe and accommodation is easy.

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