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Anonymous brands

I like to dream up simple changes that can have far reaching effects on the world. I think this simple rule could have a huge impact:

One of the powers that we consumers have in a capitalist society is deciding which products to buy. In a sea of choices, we can choose to patronize the businesses that align with our values and produce products that meet our quality standards.

This is inconvenient for large corporations who consistently choose profits over high product quality. Consumers are generally willing to pay more for products from independent companies that produce better products in a better way.

Examples of smaller brands that consumers love include: Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, Naked Juice, Mrs Meyers Clean Day, Bear Naked Granola, Larabar, Cascadian Farms, Stonyfield, Blue Moon, Odwalla, RxBar, Justin’s Nut Butter, Smart Water, Kevita, Zico Coconut, and Annie’s Homegrown.

Except if you trust these brands because they are independent, you’d be wrong. That entire list of brands above is owned by various mega corporations with questionable businesses practices like Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Co, Hormel, Kellogg, and Nestle. In fact, most of the “independent” brands you find in Whole Foods are actually just corporations masquerading as small companies to earn your business.

It is shocking to me that this type of subterfuge is acceptable to us. After all, healthy capitalism requires rational, informed actors.

Because of this successful consumer deception, mega-corporations can continue their bad practices in secret without concern about consumer backlash. And rising independent brands aren’t allowed to grow enough to challenge the power of the entrenched players.

If Clorox were required to put their logo on all Burt’s Bee’s products, an acquisition might not even make financial sense after the decline in brand value. Clorox would be forced to make corporate changes or let a rival continue to grow.

As consumers we are essentially being asked to play a game of brand whack-a-mole. The moment we start choosing a better brand en mass, it is gobbled up behind the scenes by a corporation with maligned goals.

If we instead required corporations to label every brand with their corporate identity, the consumer would be more informed and the market would have the opportunity to choose products rationally again.

I believe this one change could lead to a paradigm shift in how our largest corporations behave, positively impacting product quality, social justice, and the environment.

Do you have other ideas for simple changes to improve the world? I’d love to hear them!

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