McDonald’s recent decision to refrain from opening a branch of its franchise in Ariel – the Capital of Samaria – has opened a series of new doors and opportunities for the city’s residents. And the potential has yet to be realized.
If you’ve been involved in resource development in any capacity, you know that name recognition is a key factor to your success. The more people know you, the more you can awaken a sense of relevance, thereby paving the path to affinity, commitment and, ultimately, financial gift cultivation. Of course, the challenge is clear for the countless organizations whose names and mission statements sound so similar. How can they set themselves apart? How can they define their relevance? How can they get people to recognize them?
There are times that I travel the United States raising funds for humanitarian projects in the city of Ariel when the story line is difficult to convey. First, there are those who never heard about Ariel and the projects that we promote. Second, our objectives, which focus exclusively on the well being of Ariel’s residents and, by extension, the populace of the nearby communities, are often tangentially confused with time consuming and wholly irrelevant political discourse. Fortunately, one small McDonald’s boycott effectively set the record straight, and we have begun to reap the benefits.
In the last two days alone, as I develop our network in the New York metropolitan region, McDonald’s global reputation precedes me. At presentations, I am introduced as the representative of the city that was boycotted by McDonald’s. In meetings with prospective donors, Ronald McDonald’s smile is the topic of discussion. And of course, those who host me get a kick out of offering to take me out for anything from a Big Mac to a McCaffe Latte. Whatever the case, Ariel no longer requires a protracted introduction. The McDonald’s boycott has caused our name recognition to soar, and our message has subsequently been succinctly simplified.
We learned long ago that boycotts work in our favor. The historic boycott of the Ariel Regional Center for the Performing Arts served to increase our popularity among Israelis across the political spectrum. One of the more popular rejections of the boycott in socially progressive circles was rooted in the concept that the arts should be available to everyone, irrespective of race, belief and political orientation. As polling consistently indicated, that essential, basic truth, which came under fire by those who launched the boycott, was taken as a given by Israelis nationwide. The arts are for everyone, and while they might convey political ideas, they must not stifle them.
As I’ve learned in the past 48 hours, what was true for music, dance and theater is even more true for McNuggets, McWraps and McFlurries. People care about people much more than they care about politics. Talk about Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to the West Bank and you begin to lose people. Talk about McDonald’s withholding fast food from an untapped consumer market and everything begins to click. A boycott is worth a thousand words.
By politicizing the tasty artery blockers everyone knows and loves, Mcdonald’s has successfully characterized the absurdity of those who wish to undermine the City of Samaria. The irrational attempt to link international politics to people’s personal diets and job opportunities makes the American Friends of Ariel case better than any movie, map or slideshow. Excessively technocratic attempts to dehumanize the residents of Ariel have inadvertently humanized us. We’re contributing to a university, synagogues, youth and seniors’ programs, the arts and sports. Our lives are not politically charged, even if those who disregard us would like them to be.
As such, on behalf of the tens of thousands of residents of Ariel and the tens of humanitarian projects across the city that will now receive the attention they deserve, thank you McDonald’s for opening golden arches towards a promising future for Ariel and our neighbors. This has been the public relations campaign of a lifetime. We couldn’t have done it without you.