Don’t Boil the Ocean

How do you craft a digital campaign around changing real-life behavior?

Recently, we worked with our friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Aquarium Conservation Partnership to launch In Our Hands, a campaign designed to combat the amount of single-use plastic in our oceans.

What was the campaign about?
In Our Hands reminds us of the places and moments in our daily lives that are touched by single-use plastics, and provides viable alternatives. Research shows that people find plastic use more salient and tangible than other environmental topics, such as carbon footprints, air pollution, and the macro effects of climate change overall.

Who is the audience for In Our Hands?
The campaign was conceived to appeal specifically to climate advocates, rather than to convince climate skeptics to join the cause. If somebody doesn’t believe in climate change already, they’re not our audience.

Focusing on the low-hanging fruit allowed for a simple key message: Plastic is everywhere, and if you’re not thinking about it, it’s so easy to contribute to the problem — but with a little mindfulness and planning, we can all make a difference.

How will we reach people?

Aside from the key messages of the campaign, we also needed to figure out how aquariums across the country could tailor our messaging for their local audiences. Our hypothesis was that aquariums are uniquely positioned to communicate the threat of single-use plastic to the general public, who see aquariums as trusted institutions and leaders in their local communities. Instead of a centralized national campaign, we handed the reins over to Monterey Bay Aquarium and other aquarium partners around the country. We put a toolkit full of customizable email and social creative in their hands so they could adapt to the unique qualities and varying environmental sentiments of their local markets.

The aquariums will also be practicing what they’re preaching and going public with their commitment to reduce plastic in their own cafeterias and gift stores.

What has the reaction been?
The campaign has only been live for a few weeks — it will take years for us to be able to measure the campaign’s effect on single-use plastics. However, we’ve already seen some really promising results, thanks in part to participation by all 20 of the member aquariums at launch. We’ve seen great articles written about the program and over 14,000 social shares.

What were the key takeaways from this project?

  • Focus on the audience that’s most likely to respond to your call to action
  • Reach them with the message and the messaging that’s most likely to change their behavior
  • Leverage trusted institutions and give them the tools to do what they do best — engage their audiences in meaningful, personal ways

Want to make your core issue feel personal to your audience? Get in touch with us.