Who’s Profiting From The Occupy Wall Street Movement?

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Whether OWS will ultimately have an impact on the issue of income inequality is hard to say. But one thing it has already achieved is to awaken in people to the power of movements. I believe many who’ve watched what transpired in Zucotti Park can’t help wondering, How can I be part of something like that? Or, Could I possibly help start something like that, based around an issue that matters deeply to me?

Among those asking this question will be activists, educators, politicians, community leaders, tech innovators, artists, concerned citizens—and business people.

That last group may seem out of place at the march. What does business have to do with movements? Aren’t movements such as OWS against business? Aren’t movements supposed to be about noble causes and higher purposes—as opposed to selling stuff?

Those are great questions that I’ll tackle in my upcoming book. I expect that when I’m done, some will still feel that business has no business getting involved with movements.

But here’s what I think. Movements—at least, the kind of movements that gather around positive, creative, dynamic ideas—can help build a better, fairer, more sustainable, and more interesting world.

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Sometimes you can cross the line. It is matter of taste. When brands seem to be capitalizing where they should not be they may face a huge backlash. For example, on Friday, as I jaunted past the Body Shop enroute to Grand Central, I heard the store clerks bellowing out “Occupy Body Shop and get a 20% discount”. The place was hoping with styling and profiling execs and upwardly mobile office managers. Most of them leaving with socially acceptable cosmetics under the feel-good vibe of somehow being connected to the movement happening several blocks downtown. Outside others looked on in disgust at the frenzy inside.

I proceeded down Lexington, entered a packed terminal and hopped the train for home. Once onboard I checked out my 360 News App and read on Business Insider that Jay-Z plans a line of street wear, namely a T-Shirt blazoned with “Occupy All Streets” for profit through his Rocawear clothing line on sale now on his website. Business Insider said there were no plans to distribute any of the money generated from this to Occupy Wall Street Movement. Since this Insider post appeared rumors on the web suggest Jay-Z may be abandoning this idea after a major backlash of social media criticism.

 imageThere are surely others out there planning to market to and capitalize off the 99% like Daryl K who framed their sale after OWS (pictured here). And, most likely, over the coming days and months ahead many more will try the same. Perhaps a socially minded bedding company can market a line of comforters that when you buy one, another keep warm duvet will be donated to the activists chilling down in Zucotti Park.

Which brings me to one last point, aligning with a movement on the rise is in itself not necessarily wrong. It’s how you do it. Tom Shoes for example sells shoes and makes a profit, but in the process he helps impoverished children who have nothing to wear. In the end movement marketing gets results, but it’s got to have taste, authenticity and help to make a difference.

Scott Goodson is founder of cultural movement agency StrawberryFrog and frequent writer for Forbes and the HBR Blog. His first book Uprising will be published by McGraw Hill soon.