Monsanto, Abercrombie & Fitch, And The Greatest New Threat To Your Brand: Your Customers

At the end of 2010 I wrote about the ‘Coming Decade of Radical Transparency.’ My prediction for 2012 was the ‘Rise of Consumer Activism.’ We now find ourselves in mid-2013 and these two issues have combined, leaving brands facing a well-informed, media-savvy and mobilized audience intent on punishing behavior that does not serve the greater good.

This challenge did not emerge out of thin air. Emboldened by the citizen and consumer activism of the Arab Spring Revolutions and #OccupyWallStreet, these customers (especially Millennials and Gen Z) have grown up in a marketplace in which brands and consumers are locked in a dynamic dialogue about who they are, what they make and why they do it. Yet recent conversations played out in traditional and social media have taken this to a new level in terms of volume and frequency.

The recent protests against Monsanto over their use of GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) have taken on unprecedented proportions. According to the AP, “March Against Monsanto” protests took place in at least 52 countries and 436 cities amassing over 2 million people attacking the agribusiness giant over genetically modified foods. The movement grew from a Facebook page that called for boycotts against Monsanto-owned companies, pushing for GMO labeling and further studies of the health effects of GMOs.

Nor will this be a short-lived phenomenon. For example, a 26-year-old Los Angeles-based, freelance programmer, Ivan Pardo, has just launched a mobile app called Buycott. Once you’ve scanned an item, Buycott will show you its corporate family tree on your phone screen to see if you want to support that company’s profit by purchasing that product.

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