Today on Twitter I read a tweet by GOOD that mentioned a Media for Social Impact conference that will be hosted by the United Nations Office for Partnerships and PVLIC Foundation tomorrow (4/11/2014). I immediately clicked the link, seeing that this title alone encapsulates my passion, my goal in life, my obsession. I cannot believe they made a whole conference about it! After mentally adding this conference to my life’s bucket list, I explored the website and found these 6 commercials that amplify a positive social message. Each topic was completely different from the rest, but they were all beautiful messages worth sharing. Here is my personal ranking of the 5 company ads featured on that site:
We’re not really surfing the web anymore, but rather, we’re lying on the shore and waiting for the right websites to wash over us. In his book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, Eli Pariser writes about the internet and how websites such as Google, Facebook, and Youtube tailor the content we see to the information that these sites gather from our online activity. This personalized practice creates what Pariser calls the “filter bubble” (you can visit Nupur Behera‘s website “Bursting the [Filter] Bubble” or watch her video below to find out exactly how this works).
Pariser writes, “in a personalized world, important but complex or unpleasant issues-the rising prison population, for example, or homelessness-are less likely to come to our attention at all” (18). This means that although the bubble allows us to get content that we probably care more about, it blocks us away from social issues that we may not have been aware of before.
Get excited! Photo essay coming soon to a blog post near you!
All this time I’ve been looking at businesses and giving my own 2 cents on the way they represent poverty. But those posts have just shown my take on it. What are the real reasons people buy socially responsible products? Do we still remember these reasons 10 days after we buy something or the next time we see the same brand?
For the next week, I will be searching for “conscious consumers” to find out what they really think of the values that their favorite products claim to embody. I will then take a photo of their favorite products and the different labels that are put on them.
Imagine if the products we buy explicitly represent the reasons we buy them. If everywhere you go, your coffee cup has a picture of a fair trade worker. Every step you take leaves the print of a pillow to show how comfortable you feel walking in them. Talk about lasting branding! Is that really what every business aims for?
In a Media Studies class, my Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) asked the class for ways in which advertising has been used to make consumers feel like they have a social impact. I raised my hand and gave the example of TOMS Shoes and their One-for-One Movement. She flashed a smile and said that TOMS was precisely what she was going to talk about.
It is no surprise that both my GSI and I immediately thought of TOMS when we started on this topic. Kelsey Timmerman, the author of Where Am I Wearing?, points out that TOMS as the first thing that pops into student’s heads when they think about businesses doing good for the world. His critique of TOMS Shoes’ charitable efforts, emphasizes that the impact of TOMS Shoes is not that they give shoes to the poor, but that they bring in the issue of poverty into the thoughts of their everyday consumers.
There is a lot of buzz around the expansion of the Japanese-based clothing store, UNIQLO, to San Francisco on October 5, but the buzz seems to sidestep what I think really makes UNIQLO unique: its CSR programs. Among this company’s many programs, I was particularly drawn to its clothing recycling initiative and its partnership with Grameen Bank – both of which address the issue of global poverty (see the videos below to learn more!)
I don’t usually follow fashion trends, but this news caught my attention because I had a grand time shopping at the UNIQLO store when I was in New York over spring break. Throughout the year, I’ve been learning more about the brand’s Japanese origins or clothing technology through random news articles I stumble upon. But, I never would have known about its CSR programs if I did not linger on the home page of its company website long enough for the feature on “UNIQLO recycling” to pop out. It was a big surprise for me to find out that this company is not just fusing Japanese and American culture, but it is reaching out to countries such as Bangledsh as well (although not in the same way – and I can talk about that another time).
Seeing this surprise at the very end of the photo reel had me wondering why they don’t flaunt their strong CSR program the way Toms’ one-for-one campaign does. Has CSR become too cliche’ for brands that aim to stand out? And does this cliche’ status mean that less companies will be interested in CSR, or that this trend has become so ubiquitous that it is now a norm rather than a novelty?