Simon Mainwaring

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Simon Mainwaring
Born 1967 (age 49–50)
Occupation Social media consultant, author, speaker

Simon Mainwaring (born 1967) is an award-winning branding consultant, advertising creative director, and social media specialist and blogger. He is recognized for his thought leadership on the impact that social media is having on brands and consumers, and ultimately how the new dynamics between them will alter the accepted paradigms of marketing, advertising, and even capitalism itself.

His experience and observations of the trends in social media and the impact of consumer power on brands led him to create the concept of We First capitalism. This is a new set of principles to guide corporations and consumers to reengineer free market capitalism to become a motor of positive global social transformation. He is the author of We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Renew Capitalism and Build a Better World.

The Origin of “We First” Capitalism[edit]

We First capitalism stands among many proposals that have been created with the goal of reinventing or developing a new version of capitalism that avoids the problems of free market capitalism (such as its short-term profit orientation, tendency to produce a disparity of wealth, and its drive to neglect the environment and social justice in favor of profits). Over the past few years, numerous economists, corporate executives, and social thought leaders have proposed their own ideas for how to change capitalism. These ideas have included ethical capitalism, co-op capitalism (Noreena Hertz),[1] conscious capitalism (Whole Food’s CEO, John Mackey),[2] constructive capitalism (Umair Haque),[3] and Philanthrocapitalism (Matthew Bishop, Michael Green, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett).[4]

In January 2008, Bill Gates gave a speech to the World Economic Forum in which he called on corporations throughout the world to participate in what he called creative capitalism. He spelled out a new logic for why corporations should accept greater responsibility for developing solutions to address the many crises that plague the world, especially in the Third World where poverty often precludes sufficient profit to merit corporate participation.[5] Gates stated:

I'd like to ask everyone here—whether you're in business, government or the nonprofit world—to take on a project of creative capitalism in the coming year. It doesn't have to be a new project; you could take an existing project, and see where you might stretch the reach of market forces to help push things forward. When you award foreign aid, when you make charitable gifts, when you try to change the world—can you also find ways to put the power of market forces behind the effort to help the poor?[6]

Inspired by Gates’s challenge and intrigued by the new thinking around the need to reinvent capitalism, Mainwaring developed the concept of We First capitalism. Its premise is a twist on traditional free market capitalism by which corporations and consumers become partners in social transformation, using the everyday transactions of consumer commerce to generate contributions to causes. We First posits that corporations must re-conceive how they view their self-interest in a complex and connected world, and must seek to include purpose, sustainability, and values into their business practices.

The main element of We First capitalism is “contributory consumption” by which a small percentage of every single transaction between brands and consumers (including B2B transactions) is reserved as a donation to a cause for the betterment of the world. Corporations can manage these donations themselves and contribute them to the causes they prefer, or they can pool them together with other companies in a new association that Mainwaring envisions, The Global Brand Initiative (GBI). The GBI is intended to act as a new model of corporate cooperation, in which corporations from around the world agree to work together using their scientific and technical expertise, leadership, intellectual property, bricks and mortar infrastructure, and distribution channels to help eradicate the problems of the world.

We First goes beyond the common types of corporate social responsibility programs currently existing such as corporate foundation charitable donations and cause marketing campaigns that temporarily link consumer purchases to a cause donation. We First capitalism and contributory consumption are intended to become a permanent reengineering of free market capitalism. Given that consumers in the First World generate trillions of dollars in transactions, just a small portion of these (as little as 1% to 5%) would provide more financial resources than all the corporate contributions to causes being made today, which are estimated at only $14 billion according to The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.[7] Mainwaring estimates that contributory consumption could generate $50 to $100 billion each and every year—an amount that could finally begin to solve the vast problems in the world, including poverty, illiteracy, disease, malnutrition, infant mortality, and unemployment.

We First capitalism seeks to maximize the potential of the private sector (including corporations and consumers) to assist governments that are burdened with historic debt and unable to handle these crises in the way that the world has come to expect of them to act as the “first pillar” of social relief and change. The We First contributions from consumer transaction would also do more than supplement the increasingly scarce resources of the world’s millions of philanthropies that have become the second pillar of social change. Due to the global recession, philanthropies are losing the critical sources of their private funding, thus significantly reducing their ability to implement their relief programs in many areas of the globe. In the vision of We First capitalism, the private sector is the only resource left untapped that has the capacity to help solve the scale of problems in the world.

Market Dynamics and Social Basis of We First Capitalism[edit]

In developing We First capitalism, Mainwaring derived its foundational ideas not as a utopian vision of capitalism, but from an actual market dynamic that is taking shape and already starting to alter the nature of business. This dynamic is due to the rise and ubiquitous global penetration of the Internet, social media and mobile telephony—three forces that are fast combining to completely change the old paradigms of corporate dominance over consumers. These tools are completely altering the former balance of power between corporations and consumers. Whereas in the past, corporations dominated and controlled the conversation between brands and consumers through their advertising via traditional media, which effectively dictated to consumers what to think and what to buy, today’s consumers now have access to, and even control of, the most popular media. Through tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Foursquare, consumers now have the capability to dialogue with corporations. They can monitor corporate behaviors and demand a higher level of corporate social responsibility. Through the Internet, social media, and mobile phone apps, consumers are gaining substantial leverage to use their collective opinion and their pocketbooks to influence corporate policies and actions.

Substantial market research data such as the Edelman Goodpurpose survey[8] and the Cone Cause Evolution Study[9] demonstrate that today’s consumers overwhelmingly desire corporations to be involved in social causes. These studies consistently demonstrate that consumers prefer to purchase from companies that are socially, ethically, and environmentally responsible. Two key marketing demographic groups, “Moms” and “Millennials,” both respond at higher levels than average adults that they would even switch brands if one of was involved in a cause while another was not.

In developing the concept of We First, Mainwaring recognized that the consumer movement to pressure corporations towards greater social responsibility would grow ever stronger in the near future, due to social media and smart phones which give consumers the ability to share information and make purchasing decisions in the shopping aisle about which brands are produced by ethical companies and which are not. This information will increasingly drive consumer purchases and allow them to reward ethical and socially responsible companies, while punishing those that are not.

At the same time Mainwaring recognized that the Internet, smart phones, and social media are also emerging forces that can assist corporations who learn to use them correctly. These technologies give corporations far greater opportunities beyond traditional marketing and advertising to connect with their customers in deeper, more meaningful ways that help build brand loyalty and hence, long-term profits. Examples of this dynamic among leading companies include Pepsi Refresh[10] and Dove Soap’s Campaign for Real Beauty,[11] both marketing programs that utilize social media to inspire consumers to help shape the image of a brand and participate with it in socially responsible causes.

Mainwaring advocates that society is ready to adopt We First capitalism. Through his outreach, which includes the We First web site, his blog, and his book, he analyzes the movement towards a new capitalism and he offers dozens of specific actions that both brands and consumers can take to maximize the opportunities they have to use the tools of the Internet, social media, and mobile telephony to their best advantage. Mainwaring recommends that corporations and consumers can establish an ongoing “private sector” partnership whose objectives are to transform capitalism into a perpetual engine of progress and to assist governments and philanthropies with the tasks of eradicating the major global crises of poverty, malnutrition, disease, infant mortality, illiteracy, and unemployment.


Founder & CEO, We First, Inc.[edit]

Mainwaring is the founder and CEO of We First, a consultancy founded in 2010 dedicated to raise awareness and advocate for We First capitalism. We First works with corporations, brands, and advertising and social media agencies to deepen their understanding of how social media changes the consumer-brand relationship and how they can utilize the tools of social media and mobile smart phones applications to turn consumers into loyal customers. We First seeks to help brands identify their purpose and core values such that they can appeal to the growing consumer desire for a better world.

Advertising Creative Director and Brand Consultant[edit]

Prior to founding We First, Mainwaring was an advertising creative and brand consultant. After completing a First Class Honors Degree in Fine Arts and a Law Degree at Sydney University, Australia, Mainwaring entered the advertising field. He worked at many of the world’s top creative advertising agencies in Asia, Europe and the U.S. including Wieden+Kennedy, Portland, on Nike and as Worldwide Creative Director for Motorola at Ogilvy, Los Angeles. Mainwaring is a member of the General Mills Digital Advisory Board, the Advisory Board of the Center for Public Diplomacy at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Ad Age’s Power150 and is an Expert Blogger for Fast Company. In 2010 he was a guest of the Brookings Institution at the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha as part of their New Media working group and a speaker at the 2010 Cannes International Advertising Festival. He has received over sixty international awards at the Cannes International Advertising Festival, the One Show (U.S.) and the British Design & Art Direction Awards, among others. His work is featured in Cutting Edge Advertising by Jim Aitchison,[12] ‘The Best Advertising of the Decade’ by Campaign Brief, How to Write Great Copy by Dominic Gettins,[13] and ‘Pure Process” by Prof. Glenn Griffin and Deborah Morrison,[14] as well as Lürzer's Archive,[15] The One Club,[16] and Communications Arts Magazine.[17]


We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Renew Capitalism and Build a Better World, Mainwaring, Simon. Palgrave/MacMillan, 2011.


  1. ^ Graham Keeley Madrid Last updated at 7:58PM, June 9, 2012 (2012-02-20). "The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion". Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  2. ^ "Accelerating the Integration of Consciousness & Capitalism™". Conscious Capitalism. 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  3. ^ Sweden. "Constructive Capitalism – Umair Haque – Daytona Sessions vol. 2". Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  4. ^ "The Philanthrocapitalist Manifesto". Philanthrocapitalism. 2010-01-24. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  5. ^ "TIME". TIME. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  6. ^ "Bill Gates: World Economic Forum 2008". 2008-01-24. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  7. ^ “Giving USA 2010: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the year 2009,” published by GivingUSA Foundation, 2010, 13,
  8. ^ Edelman. "Put meaning into marketing & profit through purpose" (PDF). Edelman goodpurpose study. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  9. ^ Cone. "Past. Present. Future. The 25th Anniversary of Cause Marketing" (PDF). Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  10. ^ "Pepsi - Live For Now". 2012-04-13. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  11. ^ Dove, Campaign for Real Beauty,
  12. ^ Aitchison, Jim (1999). Cutting Edge Advertising: How to Create the World's Best for Brands in the 21st Century. Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-012897-X
  13. ^ Gettins, Dominic. (2006). How to Write Great Copy: Learn the Unwritten Rules of Copywriting. Kogan Page. ISBN 0-7494-4663-3
  14. ^ [1] Archived September 4, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Lürzers Archive. "Luerzer's Archive - Tools for advertising creatives". Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  16. ^ "The One Club / Home". Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  17. ^ "Communication Arts - Home". Retrieved 2012-06-10. 

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