Flashmob Goes Green, er… Orange

This post is part of a blogging series by marketing students at the Presidio Graduate School’s MBA program. You can follow along here.

By Jasmine D. Fallstich

We vote with our dollars each day by choosing between the local coffee shop and Starbucks, organic apples and non-organic or fair trade chocolate and conventionally sourced.  What if you could pool resources with your friends, family and neighbors to “vote” collectively?  Would you have a greater impact?  Would your vote have more sway with a specific product or business?

Carrotmob, which started in 2008 at a liquor store in San Francisco’s Mission District, intended to do just that.  Carrotmob campaigns harness the excitement, energy and intrigue of a flashmob to drive businesses to invest in sustainability initiatives.  Carrotmob organizers initiate “buycotts”, a form of community activism where consumers intentionally shop at a local business at a specified time, to reward a business at a grassroots level for its commitment to sustainability.  Businesses compete for the “buycott” by promising to invest a percentage of the day’s proceeds in a particular sustainability investment.

Since the initial campaign in 2008, other carrotmobs have taken place in various U.S. cities and in a number of countries the globe.  Each event differed slightly from the one before but the intent was the same—to invest in sustainability as a community.  Results also differed with investments in energy efficiency, waste diversion and alternative transportation.  But after a voracious start Carrotmobs have tapered to just a trickle with its most recent San Francisco campaign held on October 23, 2010.

Carrotmob appears to be at point in its evolutionary process where it is just beginning to grow legs.  Early steps did not achieve any groundbreaking results, but with more systematic implementation it has that potential.  Campaigns are publicized through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which allow for frequent updates and rapid “word of mouth” communication, as well as on Carrotmob.org.  Videos, pictures and updates can be found on these same pages once the campaign is over.  Unfortunately, other then revenue earned on the day of the event, results of the investments remain unaccounted for in the long run.  Sharing metrics on each campaign will increase the overall effectiveness by communicating goals and alerting Carrotmobbers of the results they helped accomplish.

Like many a talented garage band, Carrotmob needs a business manager to push it to the next level.  Partnering with an organization like Visible Strategies, which helps clients “see their plans for a better tomorrow and whether they’re on track today,” would enable that to happen.  Each campaign on Carrotmob.org could interface with a technology like SEE-ITTM to “drive action towards their social, environmental, and economic goals and towards a shared sustainable future.”

Carrotmob’s mission is to “empower people to use their influence in commerce to advance sustainability” by utilizing the carrot, (“buycotts”) rather than the stick (boycotts).  Maybe it’s time to carrotmob, Carrotmob.

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