by Anis Salvesen
The Huffington Post featured a fascinating article for anyone who has ever even considered buying a product that some way changes the world for the better. If you’re part of the 2.56% * of American consumers who have never even contemplated buying a product that gives something back, you too will find this article thought-provoking.
For young adults, charity is generally viewed as an invisible act, something you might do but not want to advertise. We don’t tweet about our charitable donations, and you wouldn’t wear your Susan B. Komen 5K Turkey Trot T-shirt out with friends at a bar at night.
Charities, however, are beginning to grasp the new movement that has sprung up among young adults who want to define themselves and their future through associations with the brands they wear or possess.
Instead of buying a Fendi bag, brand-savvy consumers might purchase FEED bags, which feed one child in Africa for a year with each bag sold. ..This is just one example of a product related to a charitable cause that is gaining market share by telling a cool, compelling story. By contrast, the old nonprofit model is based upon guilt, shaming the consumer into donating to the cause.
Traditional for-profit brands have long ago understood the power of brand associations. Take Nike, for instance. Nike has drenched themselves in Michael Jordan since the late 1980s…..This notion of brand appropriation is why I don’t mind “greenwashing”, that is, when companies heavily promote in their core marketing message small acts that are supposed to be saving the planet.
Sure… I am aware that Starbucks goes through roughly 2.3 billion paper cups a year and advertises its national award for using cups made of 10 percent recycled material. The sleeves on the cups even plead, “Help us help the planet.” But what demographic, who are active consumers of the message “Green Is Good,” might miss the hypocrisy of these claims? Young people. Young people who begin recycling. Young people who make their parents turn the lights off when leaving the house and conserve water. And as these consumers age, they may well become more demanding of the products they consume, collectively pushing the bar higher for personal and corporate responsibility.
..It may be a dream to imagine that a business would prefer a slightly smaller profit margin in favor of having a higher purpose, creating a great product, taking care of one’s employees, and positively impacting the planet. But why not take positive steps to champion these nonprofit and benevolent businesses? This is the birth of a new world, where your dollars can act as catalysts to accomplish the change that we want to see in the world. This is the birth of a marketplace where the brands we support will be in line with the values we advocate.
..This is a symphony, that begins with strings. Slowly building: FEED Projects. Invisible Children. Livestrong. Falling Whistles. Charity:Water. To Write Love on Her Arms. Method Cleaning Products. GreenLaces. Toms Shoes. One Mango Tree. The Holster Project. Nau. PACT.
This is only the beginning. Let’s blast off into a new paradigm of what it means to be cool, a world where the highest consumer value is inseparable from the highest social good.
It is hard to do Jeff’s article justice with excerpts, so you should definitely read the article on the Huffington Post! Comment there, and share your thoughts with us. We would love to hear from everyone, but especially from high school and college students.
Next week we will publish the most compelling comments as a blog post. I can’t wait to see what you brilliant young people have to say!
*this is an estimated figure