Poverty Pitch

The intersection of American business and global poverty


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Ad, advocacy, added clutter on a box? What do you see?

Explanation of Whole Food's social mission on the side of their cereal box

Ever look at the side of a Whole Food’s cereal box?

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?

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[VIDEO] One small step for TOMS, one giant leap for …?

Skeptical 3rd World Kid says "So you mean to tell me, you ended poverty by buying a pair of shoes?"

Skeptical 3rd World Kid talks about Toms
(Meme created through http://memegenerator.net)

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.

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