Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, has created a guerrilla marketing campaign to spawn needed reform in campaign finance, and extract money out of politics.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, opened the door to super PACs and unlimited corporate election spending on elections.
A well-crafted article in Politico points out that three years after the court’s decision, advocacy groups like Public Campaign, Public Citizen and People for the American Way helped pass ballot referendums in two states and resolutions through nine state legislatures, calling for a constitutional amendment to nullify Citizens United.
More than 400 municipalities have joined these states and about 150 members of Congress support at least one amendment proposal.
Two Politico writers, Matthew MacWilliams and Edward Erikson, believe Ben Cohen and his open source Stampede marketing campaign may “become the new model for how to fuse social media and grass-roots activism with the assets of existing organizations to engage and provoke the public in demanding change.”
Here is how it works:
“People buy inexpensive stamps at an online store with message like, ‘Not to be used for bribing politicians’ and ‘The system isn’t broken, it’s fixed.’ They stamp these messages on the money they use everyday. Then, they go about their daily routine, spending money on groceries, gas, movies -— you name it -— and spreading the message about too much money in politics.”
MacWilliams and Erikson feel the Stampede has the advantage of viral marketing because in the Stampede, money is the message and the medium. And as stamped currency circulates through the economy, the message spreads.
The stamps feature a URL and hashtag: #GetMoneyOut. As more and more stamped currency enters the marketplace, Politico thinks the online conversation will grow, and develop critical mass, with the integration of online and offline activities transforming into a social form of activism.
Cohen’s stamp campaign allows any partner organization to design its own stamp with its own message, a unique URL and hashtag.
Those who have used stamped money say the presence of Cohen’s messages on currency resonates with some who take the money, provoking others and engaging just about all. Cohen calls it “monetary jujitsu.”
Although the campaign is new, Cohen reports that it’s already taking off:
“There’s a bar in Burlington, Vt., where people stamp daily and there’s a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop in Texas with a stamping station. More than 1,000 people have already purchased stamps. And the market for Stampede sales and the Stampede message is large — over 80 percent of Republicans, independents, Democrats and others agree that there is too much money in politics.”
According to StampStampede.org, each stamped dollar passes through an average of 875 hands a year. With hundreds of thousands of stamped dollars already in circulation and momentum growing, this is a campaign to keep an eye on in 2013.