Private Online Community Seeks to Connect Conscious Consumers

BBMG, New York, a branding and integrated marketing agency, is launching the Collective, a private online community to connect socially conscious consumers with sustainable brands and causes.

Working with Passenger, a Los Angeles-based social-software company, BBMG is creating a community of 2,000 "conscious consumers" who will help shape policies, practices, products and marketing efforts of a variety of causes and socially responsible companies in what BBMG calls the "Age of Co-Creativity."

"To our knowledge, we're launching the first private online community for connecting conscious consumers with sustainable brands and related causes," says Mitch Baranowski, founding partner and chief creative officer of BBMG. "This is about much more transparent, trust-driven collaboration—co-creativity. It stops being ... about marketing to consumers, but marketing with them."

The project, which has been in beta until today, already has 400 members who have been screened and qualified to join the collective. Members must meet certain criteria for socially minded values and eco-friendly behaviors. They participate in online polls, discussions, "idea storming" and live meetings with participating companies.

"These members are part of a very leading edge," Mr. Baranowski says. "They're early adopters; they're wired to care. We're arming them to be ambassadors."

Already the collective is working with Madecasse, a fair-trade chocolate company startup, and ShoreBank, a community bank. Upcoming events are planned with Save Darfur; SweetRiot, a fair-trade chocolate company; and Blue Avocado, a sustainable lifestyle-products company.

"The working hypothesis has been if you're not setting up a community for a big brand, can you make it work this way?" Mr. Baranowski says. "The early indications are you can. But communities are hard work. You have to find consumers, and you have to connect them to meaningful events. This is about ongoing collaboration.

"The members are here for a reason," he says. "The want to have a voice; they want to connect with these brands behind the scenes."

As part of this collaboration, BBMG plans to use the collective to compile periodic trend reports, adding a Conscious Consumer Index to its existing Conscious Consumer Reports. Mr. Baranowski says this will allow his company to get instantaneous feedback on key issues.

by Karen Egolf via AdAge

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