What Climate Action Day Can Teach Marketers About Engagement

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, did it really make a sound? Marketers and event planners too frequently face the question when campaigns fail to meet participation targets.

Here's a challenge for anyone trying to promote a green event, cause, product or service: How do you capture people's attention and sustain it? How do you get mindshare?

The organizers of 350.org, a global grassroots movement founded by Bill McKibben to solve the climate crisis, are using engagement marketing to promote Moving Planet, a worldwide climate action rally led from the bottom up by people in over 168 countries. 350.org is using online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions leading up to its third annual Climate Action Day, which takes place on September 24, 2011.

Engagement marketing, sometimes called "experiential marketing" or "participation marketing," is a marketing strategy that directly invites and encourages the target audience to actively participate in the evolution of a brand. Engagement marketing attempts to connect consumers with brands by "engaging" them in a dialogue and two-way, cooperative interaction.

Certainly social media is one form of engagement marketing, but it's most effective when online activity is combined with in-person events. Such interactions maximize opportunities for building relationships and ultimately, the brand.

Across the board, the various 350.org groups are deploying a diverse network of touch points to pull people in, beginning with the main website that walks users through the steps for getting involved. From there, local websites contain events and information about the science behind the movement, a volunteer sign-up form, things you can do to help, and a blog that links to Facebook and Twitter.

The malleable communications platform keeps branding and messaging consistent while still integrating enough customizable features to allow local campaigns to uniquely express themselves.

For example, to help promote its Moving Planet day, www.350ct.org along with one of its main sponsors, the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, has commissioned 13,500 customized "Origami BuzzBoxes" to spread the word through distribution through over 100 Connecticut clean-energy town task forces, environmental organizations, museums, and other non-profits.

Covered in custom graphics and messaging, the Origami BuzzBox is printed on sustainable (e.g. post-consumer, 100 percent recycled, soy ink, FSC-certified) paper. The set of boxes is on the order of Russian dolls, where curiosity piques interest in what's inside.

Next page: A green take on "The Purple Cow"