Friday, July 25, 2008

The New Face of Do-Good Consumerism

It used to be that the same names always came up when anyone talked about socially responsible companies: Patagonia, The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry’s, maybe Benetton, and that was about it. What made them socially responsible differed from company to company – but having a conscience was an essential part of their relationship with employees, owners, and customers.

Today, we expect big companies to be good citizens of the world – Chevron, Nike, Gap, Starbucks, Pepsico and others produce annual reports on their acts of corporate or social responsibility. The reports are posted proudly on company websites, and the companies are truly making progress in cleaning up their act. But being a good citizen is generally a response to external pressures - it's not part of most companies' DNA.

Then, there’s 2006 startup, TOM’s Shoes. TOM’s is a business that's also a social movement. The name – TOM’s stands for TOMorrow’s Shoes – and their “One-for-One” commitment to give a child in need a pair of shoes for every pair sold, make customers feel great for buying a pair of TOM’s shoes. There are blogs, block parties, and foreign country shoe drops in addition to TOM’s own stores and retail accounts where customers can share the feel-good TOM’s experience.

Retailers like TOM’s have made it a central part of their business proposition to creatively and tangibly take on big social, economic or environmental issues while also providing products that U.S. consumers want to buy. These companies have figured out that taking action on a human scale and letting the customer in on the act is cool, and creates a reason to be brand loyal.

And as Carol Phillips points out in her Millennial Marketing blog, this type of do-good positioning really resonates with millennials. As Phillips points out "One of the most cherished Millennial values is 'making a difference'. This makes cause marketing a natural choice for many Millennial marketers."

What is your favorite do-good brand?

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