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The power of the “local” movement

November 6, 2011

While the “local” trend has been around for a while, it’s mostly been focused around the “soft” things like farmer’s markets and some large corporations acknowledged the trend’s presence by trying harder to appear more “local” and to be more overt in stating their involvement and contribution to local communities.

It’s been recognized as important, but there was nothing financially powerful about the “local movement” that extended beyond the growth of revenue for farmer’s markets, but that could be about to change because of a renewed sense of public focus in big banks.

Many banks seem to have limited awareness of the public’s attitude towards them and some weeks back considered charging a fee for debit cards. They obviously under-estimated the public’s resentment and were subsequently forced to back down from their original plan.

Yesterday was Bank Transfer Day, a movement created by Kristen Christian, a 27 year-old from Los Angeles, who was angry at the potential debit card charges and went onto Facebook to encourage her friends to close their accounts with the big banks and transfer their accounts to non-profit credit unions. This caught a wave of attention that went well beyond her friend base, a month later, 76,000 people have joined her cause and 39,000 have “liked” the “Bank Transfer Day” cause page.

Bank Transfer Day might be the only large focused movement against the big banks and pro-credit unions, but customers seem to be leaving banks in their droves for credit unions, with over 650,000 new credit union accounts created since September 29th. (That’s more new accounts than for the whole of 2010.)

While Bank Transfer Day wasn’t originally directly affiliated to the Occupy Wall Street movement- they certainly worked together with Bank Transfer Day’s Facebook page containing the striking image of the “Anonymous” mask and choosing Guy Fawkes Day as the date for Bank Transfer Day.

What’s interesting here aside from the very clear message and clever use of social media is the intent not just to protest and issue, but also to take direct action with a clear motivation.

As Bank Transfer Day creator Kristen Christian explained in a recent interview with the New York Times.

“I believe that every dollar has the opportunity to make a difference on the local level in a banking structure that serves the community. I work hard and live within my means. I am tired of funding the lavish lifestyles of a select few when I could be helping to create growth in my own local community.”

As I mentioned in a post about OWS, I feel it’s biggest impact might be felt at a grassroots local level and BTD is a good example of this, we are likely to see further examples of people turning against the bigger banks and national brands in favor of those that are tied to and part of the fabric of their local communities.

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