The new social media phenomenon of Cash Mobs proves that in the global economy, twitterverse and cyberspace, local still matters in marketing.
The Cash Mob movement encourages people to go to small, local businesses and spend money, en masse.
According to the Cash Mobs website, a Buffalo blogger, Christopher Smith, originated the idea almost a year ago. A Cleveland attorney helped popularize the movement last fall. NBC's Today Show gave its seal of approval in a televised segment last week.
Using Twitter, organizers put out a call to followers to meet up at a local store on a particular day — and bring money to spend. A horde of smiling, eager shoppers can brighten the day of any merchant, perhaps even making a difference in whether the local business can keep its doors open.
Cash mobs are a stark contrast to the rash of flash mobs that have flouted surveillance cameras while looting stores. The goal of cash mobs is to "build community," not ransack them.
This application of social media is further evidence that reach can be global, but targeting can be local. Whole Foods Market has demonstrated the value of tweeting about events or special offers in individual or groups of stores. Local and regional brands such as Burgerville, Ninkasi and Dave's Killer Bread use Twitter and Facebook in the same way. Posts build brand familiarity, while marketing local activity.
The advent of cash mobs reinforces the point that marketing isn't just about money. It's also about creativity and energy.
In their book titled, "Switch," Chip and Dan Heath describe how a group of high school students in Howard, South Dakota, attacked the problem of shrinking to shop in larger stores. After a group brainstorm, the students prepared a spreadsheet showing the impact on Howard's economy if residents spent just 10 percent of their disposable income at local stores. A year later, the South Dakota Department of Revenue reported consumer spending in Howard increased by $15.6 million, more than twice what the students encouraged.
Cash mobs enable groups to form anywhere to follow Howard's example of going local. There are Cash Mobs Twitter sites for
Bend, Eugene, Portland, St. Johns, Sherwood and LaGrande. In Washington, there are Cash Mobs in Vancouver, Clark and Cowlitz counties, Seattle, Olympia and Renton. Bellingham, Tacoma and Yakima have Cash Mobs linked on Facebook.