Sunday, 15 March 2009

Carrotmob Rule

Image courtesy of kathryn Rotondo

We've been chatting a lot in the office about carrotmobbing. A carrotmob is defined as a network of consumers who buy products to reward businesses that are making the most socially responsible decisions.

Creator Brent Schulkin sets out the vision:

We will create a large network of consumers. We will form partnerships with other larger advocacy groups to use their research and infrastructure. Together we will identify opportunities for improving corporate behavior. For example, let's say there's an environmentally harmful chemical in common brands of soap. We would approach several competing soap companies. We will explain the problem, and see which of them is willing to eliminate the harmful chemical. They will bid for our support. Each company will raise the bar with how much good they are willing to do. Perhaps Company X pledges to remove the chemical. Then Company Y pledges to remove the chemical and reduce factory emissions 20%. And so on. The bigger our network, the further they will be willing to go. We accept the best offer. Company Y agrees to take the steps that we want, and then we make it worth their while with a carrot: Everyone in the network buys millions of dollars worth of their soap, and in the process Company Y gains a wealth of reputation capital as well. The most responsible business decision also gets the most profit. Delicious!

The first Carrotmob took place in San Fransisco, persuading a local store to change to greener lighting in return for a mob of customers one weekend. Whilst in the UK, the first carrotmob saw a bar in east London, commit to investing 20% of the takings from a mob's visit in upgrading its energy efficiency.

The interesting thing isn't so much the power of social media to create mobs but the desire of people to engage with the real stuff of business. How is the product made? Where is the factory? Where do you buy your energy?

This of course is nothing new, but could companies do more to harness this consumer urge to get involved and change the way the business is actually run? And, from a live communications point-of-view, how might they use the desire to form a mob to positively drive their business forward?