A Carrotmob, not a stick

Have consumers ever been more powerful than they are today?

A Facebook posting led thousands of people to move money out of big banks and into credit unions. When customers revolted, Verizon dropped plans to charge a $2 “convenience fee” to pay bills online. A petition at change.org led to Bank of America back off a scheme to charge customers for using their debit cards.

“It’s a great time to be a citizen,” says Brent Schulkin. “It’s a really bad time to be a failed institution.”

Schulkin, who is 31, is the founder of Carrotmob, a startup that aims to use the power of consumers to do good. Instead of boycotting or protesting companies for missteps (or downright bad behavior),  Carrotmob organizes campaigns in which people offer to spend their money to support a business, and in return the business agrees to take an action that the people care about. It’s the opposite of a boycott, and it’s called Carrotmob (not to be confused with the comedian Carrot Top) because it uses a “carrot” instead of a “stick” to spark change.

Carrotmob in Sydney, Australia

You can think of Carrotmob as another way to drive sustainability by using social media. The idea has been kicking around Schulkin’s head since 2003 when he was an undergrad at Stanford. As it evolves, it is likely to look more like  Groupon (which uses the power of collective purchasing to drive discounts) or Kickstarter (where people can come together to raise money to support a project) while tapping into some of the frustrations that energized OccupyWallStreet. [click to continue…]