Corporations inventing new definitions for local shopping
When corporate marketing meets a grassroots movement, everyone gets confused.
Thu, Jul 16 2009 at 4:27 PM
If you're reading this site, you probably have some idea of the movement behind getting people to buy locally. Not only is it good for the environment with regards to transportation costs and energy, but it's also fiscally healthy for small-town businesses and shops. The idea has become so popular that Webster's Collegiate Dictionary recently added the word locavore (or one who shops locally) to its lexicon.
As expected, big corporations have not let this buzzword pass them by. But how do you take advantage of something that runs counter to everything you represent? I'll let you in on a little secret: It's called "twisting the truth".
The San Francisco Bay Guardian has a great article highlighting corporate basterdization of the word "local". Here are just a few examples:
The International Council of Shopping Centers, a global consortium of mall owners and developers, is pouring millions of dollars into television ads urging people to "Shop Local" — at their nearest mall. Even Walmart is getting in on the act, hanging bright green banners over its produce aisles that simply say "Local." Hellmann's, the mayonnaise brand owned by the processed-food giant Unilever, is test-driving a new "Eat Real, Eat Local" initiative in Canada. The ad campaign seems aimed partly at enhancing the brand by simply associating Hellmann's with local food. But it also makes the claim that Hellmann's is local, because most of its ingredients come from North America.
And it doesn't stop there. National chains and big-box stores are all jumping on board the "buy local" phenomenon, using the loose definition that visiting your local Starbucks is the same thing as buying coffee from the locally owned mom-and-pop shop down the road. There's a real difference. As the article points out, "Studies have shown that $45 of every $100 spent at locally owned stores stays in the community, helping other local businesses and supporting government services, whereas only about $13 of every $100 spent in chain stores remains local."
The moral of the story is not to fall for half-baked "buy local" campaigns that group chains and big-box stores in with the little guys. If you really want your money to make a difference in the community, leave it in the hands of independent shops.