Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Feel Good Bar

Last week I found myself in the energy bar aisle at the supermarket, faced with the increasingly challenging feat of choosing a good snack. With so many gluten-free, dairy-free options on the market, it's tough to decide which bar is best, considering that so many of them are not only promoting natural, unprocessed ingredients but also the social causes they support. This type of do-good marketing is a popular trend lately as corporate social responsibility is now a way to capture the conscience of consumers who can justify the cost of their purchases by feeling like it includes a contribution to a good cause.

Case in point: TOMS. They sell shoes. Their shoes aren't that great - they provide little to no support and they're not much to look at and yet over the years I've already bought several pairs, spending more money than I believe they are worth. Why? Because TOMS is not a company but a movement, one that donates a pair of shoes for every pair purchased, to a child in need in developing countries. Connecting consumers' spending choices to a larger social good has been a successful aspect of their marketing campaign and has caught on elsewhere too.
Back in the supermarket it was a chocolate banana flavored Two Degrees bar that caught my eye. Featured prominently on the label is the tagline "Is Good: Does Good," offering that "For every bar you buy, we give a meal to a hungry child." Immediately I felt justified in paying close to $2 for this bar over the others, suddenly thinking I would not only be feeding myself but someone else with this purchase. It's the same rationale I remember using when paying over $40 for my first pair of TOMS: my spending was elevated from a selfish act to a magnanimous one. I felt good about buying the bar and it tasted pretty darn good too. I only hoped that the RUTF (Ready to use Therapeutic Food) that was being provided to the beneficiary of my purchase was equally as satisfying.

An impressive infomercial about how Two Degrees bars address malnutrition

Both TOMS and Two Degrees are examples of a growing One-for-One movement where one person can directly impact another's life, in most cases someone in need who lives halfway around the world. But as I think of these business models, they would more aptly be called One-for-Two. Just as with Two Degrees bars, you buy one and feed two so that the double rewards of the purchase (ie. I benefit and so does someone else) empower us to feel good about our spending on multiple levels.  And while I don't believe the long term solution to hunger is in RUTF packets, they do address acute malnutrition and offer opportunities for us to engage in larger global health issues as we go about our daily lives.  Further down the line, it would be exciting to see smartphone apps that can scan items, see their social responsibility track record (in case it's not as clearly evident on the packaging) and encourage more of One-for-One (or as I argue, One-for-Two) model. 

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