Guest post by Simon Mainwaring
Todayâ€™s women, especially Moms, can become key influencing agents of social transformation in the world. This power of women derives from two forces.
1. First, all consumers now have the ability to organize themselves with great ease and at nearly no cost through social technologies. Social tools like Facebook, Twitter, and smart phones and their apps, are linking up vast networks of people aligned around shared values. These tools give consumers enormous leverage to alter the context and the conversations we have in society. Mainstream media no longer has total control over the creation and dissemination of the messages consumers hear, especially regarding what they should think and what they should buy.
Consumers are increasingly becoming their own content creators, curators, distributors, and interpreters of social meaning, able to consume information on their own terms and to exchange their thoughts with any number of people anywhere in the world. And while this power pertains to all consumers, women may be especially geared up to make use of social technologies, because they are usually more willing to share their feelings of concern about the condition of the world and the plight of other Moms and children.
2. Second, many consumer functions are increasingly facilitated through exciting social technologies, especially via mobile phones and creative apps that help consumers learn about what they are buying, compare items, and make better decisions. Take GoodGuide, an app that lets consumers scan a bar code and immediately get information on the â€œsocial impactâ€ rating of that product.
Again, any consumer can use this, but given that Moms are usually the primary shoppers in families and the key audience of most mainstream media consumer advertising, these types of tools yield a new degree of consumer power specifically for Moms. In other words, if you are a Mom who wants to be both mindful about her consumer needs and proactive in building a better world for her children, these social technologies give you the ability to leverage your purchasing power in a clear way. Mindful Moms can emphasize buying products from socially responsible companies, while refusing to patronize irresponsible brands. And how each Mom defines socially responsible is up to herâ€”it can cover environmental issues, how the company pays and treats its employees, or what charities a company donates to.
Between these two forces â€“ our ability to connect and the capabilities of social technologies to facilitate smarter shopping â€“ Moms can begin pushing at the seams of capitalism wherever brands are not being transparent, authentic, or socially responsible. Moms can reshape the retail landscape, turning every mall, warehouse and shopping cart from a monument to harmful overconsumption supporting a system of unsustainable capitalism, to a celebration of smart-thinking brands that are willing to stand up for human values and take responsibility for our collective future.
This is not to suggest that women should take on this role exclusively, as men clearly need to participate as well, but the power of Mom shoppers to influence corporate social responsibility is not to be underestimated. Moms represent the foundation of a real movement we all have an opportunity to build. By celebrating those companies that are listening to consumers and taking steps to be more socially responsible, Moms can send a message to all corporations, saying, â€œItâ€™s time you become real partners with consumers to build a better world.â€
Needless to say, there are great emotional benefits that anyone who participates in this movement can gain. For Moms, you are not only fulfilling your responsibilities to your family, but you are also making a contribution to the future by helping us build a more sustainable practice of capitalism through mindful consumption. You can know that you are doing a little less damage by buying brands that donâ€™t have a negative impact on the world, and supporting a movement to make brands more socially responsible and so you can feel better about your own consumption. Instead of feeling hopeless or helpless, you can feel like the things you do as a Mom are contributing to the world, because when we consider them all together, they are the energy that starts a movement.
Simon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, a social branding consultancy that helps companies, non-profits and consumer groups build a better world through changes to the practice of capitalism, branding, and consumerism using social technology. More information is available in We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World (Palgrave/Macmillan, June 2011).Â Or visit www.wefirstbook.com. Note that 10% of book proceeds go to Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that supports education for young women in the developing world.