This week, HBO’s multi-part documentary The Weight of the Nation aired on cable TV and the web (they’re allowing you to stream it for free). The four-part series takes a look at the obesity epidemic hitting the United States and is a joint production between HBO, the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, in partnership with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente. In reality, The Weight of the Nation is much more than a documentary series – the project includes information on hosting community screening and discussion events, a companion book compiled of expert data and interviews, and an action list you can connect to Facebook to promote healthy eating and lifestyle activity.
On top of it all, HBO has teamed up with Whole Foods Market’s Whole Kids Foundation to install 100 salad bars in elementary schools throughout the country as both a social justice initiative and advertising strategy. The Whole Kids Foundation and its partners have made it a personal mission to bring at least 6,000 salad bars to schools and have currently been able to actually realize 1,392 of those. While 100 salad bars to schools doesn’t seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, one has to admit that it’s a good thing to see a large company like HBO pushing their programming, having it cover an issue of large-scale national interest, and actually do something about the problem they’re drawing attention to.
It’s actually somewhat surprising to see HBO taking on such an experience economy marketing strategy when co-president Eric Kessler just made comments last week regarding streaming video and HBO GO that made the company look out of touch with modern day consumer preference. A number of companies have carved out a name for themselves by taking on the social responsibility role. For example, TOMS Shoes gives away a pair for every pair you buy, Warby Parker does the same thing with eyeglasses, and Starbuck’s (probably the most recognizable of the three) has its Shared Planet initiative. All of these companies have gained dedicated customers due to this social responsibility facet of their business model. While we definitely don’t see HBO becoming the next big name in philanthro-business, one has to admit that the warm-and-fuzzies this project will give to the more socially minded segment of their market can’t be a bad thing. After all, who doesn’t want to do something good for the world every now and then?