One Reddit user is having a very special Christmas, after Microsoft founder Bill Gates sent her three gifts as part of Reddit’s Secret Santa.
Rachel was originally assigned “Bill” as her Secret Santa, but when the presents arrived she was surprised to discover the mysterious Bill was none other than the billionaire Microsoft founder himself.
Posting about the experience online, Rachel said Bill sounded like a “friendly fellow”.
“In fact, I had this whole image of this poor guy named Bill trying to navigate my wishlist full of makeup, nail polish, glittery things to buy me,” she says.
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“Quite frankly I felt bad for this ‘Bill’ since I’m a self-identified pain in the ass to shop for. I finally opened the card and realised that ‘Bill’ … had donated to charity on my behalf.”
Gates shocked Rachel by sending her a donation to the not-for-profit foundation Heifer International, a stuffed cow and a travel book called Journeys of a Lifetime.
The book was inscribed by Gates with a message wishing her a Merry Christmas and a Happy Birthday. To ensure she knew it wasn’t a hoax, Gates also sent Rachel a photo of himself with the stuffed cow and Secret Santa sign.
Concluding her Reddit post, Rachel apologises to Gates for an “awkward” mistake.
“PS. Sorry for the Apple iPad on my wishlist, that was really awkward,” she says.
Independent brand analyst Michel Hogan told SmartCompany Gates being Santa is “kind of cool” and fits his current persona of doing good.
“There is a connection between organisation’s brands and the personal brand of a founder, high profile employee or CEO,” she says.
“Their actions have an impact on the organisation and the person has to be conscious of that. You think about Steve Jobs and Apple and then Bill Gates and Microsoft, their personalities have shaped the image of the companies.”
Hogan says Microsoft has struggled since the departure of Gates as chief executive in January 2000.
“The guy who took over (Steve Ballmer) has a very different persona and has been out of sync with what people think the company is about,” she says.
“If a person’s brand is managed and it’s done in alignment with what the company is about it, the link between personal and company brand can work very well. But if the founder, CEO or high profile person goes rogue, then that can be downsides.”
Hogan says the jury is out on whether or not it’s necessary to link personal and company brands.
“There are plenty of examples of CEOs and founders of companies who have maintained low profiles and their organisations have flourished,” she says.
“It’s about what you bring with you. Your brand is the result of everything you do, it’s not one action. Bill Gates’ brand has really evolved very strongly since he stepped down as CEO. There’s been a fundamental shift in how people see him on the back of his philanthropic work, but it took time, he didn’t walk out of Microsoft like that.”
Hogan says out of the top brands, there is a mixture of companies which have a high profile leader and those which don’t, but personality has become a much stronger influencer over the past few years.
“The culture of personality has become a much larger player in the past few years than it ever has before. The whole dot com boom changed the dynamic forever because it made rock stars out of business people,” she says.
“In Australia, we have Ruslan Kogan and Gerry Harvey. Their own brands are a component of their company and those two things are tied together.”