Thursday, 5 May 2011

Marketing for Trees?

More often than not, when we talk about 'marketing for good', we look at Social Marketing, and in turn, the majority of our output on that area focuses on Public Health. But these are not the only ways marketing can be used for a good cause, so let's look at an example.

The Big Tree Plant is a campaign launched in 2010 and aimed at planting 1 million trees in the urban areas of England over the next four years. It's a nationwide joint venture by various organizations, including DEFRA and the Forestry Commission, who work with community groups to plant trees in their neighbourhoods. They've just passed a massive milestone, having now planted over 100, ooo new trees.

Speaking after she joined in by planting her own tree, Environment Secretary for the UK Caroline Spelman said:

“Hitting the 100,000 mark is a fantastic achievement and shows how much people care about enhancing our urban green spaces. The number of trees in urban and semi-urban areas has dropped over recent years, so the point of this campaign is to reverse that trend so that we can all gain from the benefits that trees provide in our towns and cities.”

The associated marketing activities ran in support of this campaign are unarguably for a good cause, which also includes increasing green spaces in the NHS. Any efforts to raise awareness and increase participation in the initiative are most certainly 'marketing for good'.

Amongst these efforts, it would be great to see a big drive in Social Media. As we mention here quite a lot, there's nothing quite like a facebook page or twitter profile to spread the word, raise awareness and engage with a large scale audience. If it's a genuine good cause, then the impact can be even greater.

This was more than evident in the recent 'Save Our Forest' campaign, launched by protest group 38 Degrees, in opposition to Government plans to sell off chunks of national forest. Over 220,000 people shared the campaign on facebook, which made a huge contribution in gaining over half a million signatures on the corresponding petition. As was well reported at the time, this was enough to make the Government rethink their intentions.

This demonstrates the passion that people hold for our green areas and that those people are ready and waiting on facebook for associated campaigns. The Big Tree Plant could quite easily look to target the same people by engaging with 38 degrees and asking for help.

This is often a good tactic in general with Social Media. Talking with other businesses and organisations, who may share your demographics and looking to cross promote can be very useful in gaining more exposure. It can also be very easy; simply leaving a comment, starting a conversation, and then reposting each others content.

One importance difference between the two campaigns above though, is the end outcome. 38 Degrees' wanted people to sign a petition, which they could do straight away online, without moving away from their computer screens. With the Big Tree Plant, apart from raising awareness, the main intention is to obtain a real world outcome, with people actually planting trees.

This is the main dilemma with so much online marketing; converting it into real world outcomes. If the point of sale can be online, such as with eCommerce or indeed, signing a digital petition, then the chances of making it are much higher than if the target has to go elsewhere, giving them time to forget or change their mind.

In such cases, the best course of action is to get as much commitment and investment from the target as possible, before they go offline. This may involve registering to take part or for a call back, subscribing to future content or offering an email address. These are by no means concrete routes to sale, but they at least establishing a communications channel, by which to reinforce that initial interest towards reaching that desired outcome.

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