Are You Listening?

Jan 17, 2012 3:14 PM ET

What Do You Stand For?

From ponytails to braids, long locks to updo's, Barbie's hair often reflects the trends of the times. But, according to some consumers, there's one style the iconic doll is long overdue for: going bald. A new Facebook page "Beautiful and Bald Barbie: Let's see if we can get it made," has cropped up online, driven by two women affected by cancer. The group, now more than 87,000 "likes" strong, is asking toy maker Mattel to create a bald Barbie to support children with cancer and help them deal with situations when they or loved ones lose their hair. Although Mattel has yet to publicly enter the conversation, with media coverage from USA Today to Fox News, it's hard to imagine the brand will stay mum for long. This movement signals an important shift in cause branding. Today, empowered consumers are taking the reins and have no qualms letting companies know what issues they should support.

In recent years, company-sponsored voting campaigns have given consumers an increasingly powerful voice in how and where companies direct their cause marketing and philanthropy, yet ultimately, the company is still in control. But social media and grassroots organizations like are giving consumers an unprecedented voice in a company's responsibility efforts – and they won't hesitate to use it. According to Cone's 2011 Global CR Opportunity Study, 79 percent of Americans are willing to voice their opinions to a company about its corporate responsibility efforts. So listen up.

Despite this pressure, the activist consumer is not necessarily a thing to be feared. This trend presents companies with a unique opportunity to connect with consumers and address a cause on a level that is much more personal and meaningful than a pink ribbon on a package can ever hope to be. Being open to this kind of consumer feedback may spur innovation and help craft products that reflect the attitudes and concerns of today's consumers. The result is a new level of brand affinity – one that companies, consumers and causes can all embrace.