In July Greenpeace's been dominating my digital world with their two brilliantly executed campaigns - Barbie the rainforest destroyer ergo chainsaw Barbie and VW - Dark Side.
The Barbie campaign has launched with a video of Ken musing about the nice life he has with Barbie only to learn that she has a nasty habit - destroying rainforests. This is how Greenpeace launched their campaign to stop Mattel using paper from rainforests for toy packaging.
The next day Ken dumps Barbie via a huge banner on the HQ of Mattel. Naturally, Greenpeace supporters visit Barbie fan pages on Facebook and start asking difficult questions. Mattel closes the page. So far, familiar Greenpeace work.
The Barbie-hunt begins - find a hidden Barbie doll, report it, unlock the next task which will help spread the word, get an exclusive t-shirt. Everyone - from volunteers to campaigners taking part - were having a great time.
Then, few weeks later, Twitter tells me that storm-troupers are in Old Street, climbers are putting down banners. A video is being released:
Greenpeace is asking me to join the rebellion against the Dark Side embodied in VW fighting CO2 emission cuts. I join in alongside almost all my Twitter friends. Frenzy begins, we are all clicking on each other's pages to earn points and get to the next level of Jedi training. And all that to win a t-shirt!
I scream across the office:"I'm a wookiee!" and I don't even know what a wookiee is. [I didn't get most of the Star Wars references in VW Dark Side emails to the shock of my geeky friend. I am not ashamed to admit it - I liked star wars because I was in love with Luke and then Solo and then I wanted to be princess Leia and the I liked Luke again]
Having fun with it
What's common to both of these campaigns is the playfulness of campaigning asks which makes participation fun and cool. And Greenpeace went all the way, they are not compromising. The campaigning message is underlying everything I read, but it isn't in my face, the priority is to provide me with a fantastic experience which I want to shout about.
The tactic paid off - a couple of weeks into the Barbie campaign Mattel (and other toy companies in case they were Greenpeace's target too) begun to see Greenpeace's point of view.
Sorry, didn't get it
The challenge of prioritising fun experience over message is that the message can suffer at the early stages of the campaign. I found it difficult to see the connection between mainstream characters of Barbie and Star Wars and environmental campaigning.
The Barbie campaign launch film played an important educational role - it introduced the issue so the final message about stopping 'Mattel packaging toys with destroyed forests' kind of made sense....
With VW this wasn't the case - after watching the launch film I wasn't sure what the campaign was about - how can one car company oppose cuts in carbon emissions in Europe?
The campaign message is a bit more complicated which probably means that for a majority of people it won't go further than Star Wars enjoying a game.
And there is nothing wrong in that.
The theory goes that these are campaign leads and a small percentage of them will be converted into 'real' campaigners. If the volume is high, this strategy can work really well. So if Greenpeace gains 10,000 campaigners from their 200,000 Jedi gamers - that's a good deal.
Marketing is OK
Looking at Twitter feed during the first day of VW campaign, some Londoners were clearly confused - commenting that VW has done a good job on George Lucas to get the permission to use Star Wars characters. Even the leaflets looked too much like VW and, for all the skim readers out there, the message could have be easily seen as VW promo.
Greenpeace has been shy with promoting their brand (although I hear that this might have something to do with legalities of doing spoof campaigns) and reluctant in asking for money for campaigning (although a shy donate link on the Dark Side microsite is much more than they ever did before).
While most NGOs have a very prominent donate button on their homepage/emails Grenpeace hasn't. I am sure that campaigners who are passionate about Greenpeace would be passionate enough to donate as well. So, once Greenpeace recruits new campaigners of the back of VW Dark Side, I would expect them to design a journey which will ask for money as well as actions, both at the right time for a supporter.
Lessons for the rest of us: Don't get depressed
I know for a fact that a number of NGO digi teams looked at VW dark side campaign and got depressed because 'we'd never be able to do something like this'.
Bur let's not get depressed and let's draw some lessons that can apply to all of us:
- Be fun, give people an excellent experience, take them on a fun/enjoyable journey. People will then be more likely to give you some time and engage with the complexities of the message. I always remember e-campaigning forum 2004 when Prof Stephan Coleman of Oxford Internet Institute said something along the lines of - The problem with charities is that they are no fun, why would I engage to be made feel guilty.
-At a start of a campaign, providing an excellent experience to your supporters is more important that drilling into the depths of policy supporting your campaigning message. Once you attract people's attention to your proposition and brand, you can move to the next level of explaining. For example VW Dark side emails were a good example of this - they were revealing the detail of their campaign as I was going up the Jedi training scale.
- These two campaigns show that we can be playful within our resources - Greenpeace didn't develop an expensive game which is trying to compete within the gaming market. Both campaigns are actually technically/visually very simple but very funny in a clever way.
- Do not launch two big campaigns in the scope of few weeks - it might work for Greenpeace as they get companies to crumble under their pressure pretty quick. But as a Barbie hunter, I am a bit upset that I am being told to switch to Star Wars geekery so quickly. Although I admit that there is a gender divide on this one - a friend was saying that he got a lot of flack for 'liking' Barbie FB page.
It will be interesting to see the recruitment results of the Greenpeace campaign in 6 months time and see if the assumptions I made are correct.