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Buycott: An Application for Principled Buying

Posted At: August 28, 2013 2:20 p.m.
by Karly Weigel

Finding an iPhone application that proves to be shocking or new is rare. Buycott, an emerging iPhone app, has captivated consumers’ attention and caused companies to reevaluate their public stances. The app’s motto could not be more fitting: “Buycott helps you to organize your everyday consumer spending so that it reflects your principles.”

Buycott is free to download and user-friendly. Featured campaigns include “No Nestlé,” “Please do not use Splenda” and “Avoid Sweatshop and Child Labor.” After selecting a campaign, users can scan any item with a barcode. If an item conflicts with a campaign, an explanation will pop up, and the consumer can choose what to do next.


For example, I scanned a container of Pillsbury Funfetti Frosting. A warning signaled that Pillsbury donated $1,135,300 to “No” on Proposition 37. The paragraph below the warning explained how Pillsbury is againstGMO labeling that allows consumers to know what ingredients are in its products.

Consumers use Buycott to scan everyday items, such as a loaf of bread, and to check if the scanned item conflicts with selected campaign commitments. The consumer can simply set the product down and keep walking.

Instead of creating clever commercials and marketing ideas, companies need to focus on their actions and develop stances on issues. Consumers are reaching for apps like Buycott to become informed and take charge of their purchasing powers.

In the eyes of a company, Buycott may seem harmless. However, with the help of this app consumers have become empowered to make conscious decisions between brands based on their fundamental values. Companies should be scared straight. With this point-of-purchase app, a company risks immediate loss of product sales, as well as damage to its reputation.

Aside from lost product revenue, word of mouth continues to damage the company. I was shown Buycott through a friend, Matt. When Matt discovered the app, he put the program to use immediately. At a dinner party, he began scanning items the host had purchased. Almost every item went against the stances he supported. Matt promptly threw out the items and returned to the grocery store with the host. Throwing out every item may seem ridiculous to some, but Matt was serious. Luckily, the host was Matt’s good friend, so there were no hard feelings.

Popular apps for smartphones include games, photo editing software and workout plans. Apps like Buycott, however, have the potential to take over. Shoppers will stop reaching mindlessly for products and instead challenge a company’s beliefs.

Turning a blind eye to Buycott and similar apps can only hurt a company more. Such corporate-responsibility apps will not disappear, and companies need to actively be aware of what consumers are saying about their brands at the point-of-purchase.

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