Social Responsibility Served Up With Niche-Oriented Subtelty

As I was mindlessly flipping through the CB2 catalogue this morning, daydreaming about what the furniture in my beach house might look like if I “had a million dollars”, I spotted this


My heart smiled big and I shared it on my friend’s Facebook page who I know rescues Pit Bulls and has a soft spot for helping to save the lives of unwanted pets.

It struck me that CB2 (The more “modern accessible design” arm of Crate and Barrel) was on to something here. They found a way to integrate a “do something better” platform into their business without being cheesy or seeming inauthentic. They found a cause that makes sense for their brand (pets are a big part of domestic life and they sell home furnishings) and did it in a way that people who care to notice would see.

I think this is the kind of subtlelty many companies could learn from on their quest to incorporate some “give -back” into their business. Why? Because our American consumer culture is laden with so many issues. Our history of conspicuous consumption has gotten us into a bind: we want to have our cool stuff but we don’t want our neighbors (both on our block and on other continents) to think we are oblivious and insensitive to the growing tide of social and economic issues.

We want to be able to enjoy our “prosperity” but at the same time feel like we are giving back. So we start to choose brands who we know are “doing something” that we think is right and good.

I think we will see more of this subtly woven-in social cause consciousness coming from our favorite brands and companies, because as consumers we are using the power of our humanity combined with our wallets to change things. We realize that we have a choice in what we buy and that if we assert our priorities that companies will listen and act accordingly.

It’s a subtle nuance in the system that we have embraced. While the Millennials start inventing new systems, we are changing the existing system from within. It’s a fun and affirming phenomenon for a narcissistic anthropologist who earns her living building brands to observe.

What are some other examples out there that you have seen and can share to help me collect some more data and validate my hypothesis?

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Marketing, pop culture, sociology, Trends, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Social Responsibility Served Up With Niche-Oriented Subtelty

  1. bev

    Love this, love CB2. Trader Joe’s kicks a$$ in this regard. At the end of 2012, they officially booted all products that had ingredients not born out of a (ideally local) sustainable environment. I love me some Whole Foods, but damn, Trader Joe’s is a purist.

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