With Earth Day 2021 just around the corner on April 22nd, now is the time to start planning your company’s campaign.
Don’t sit this one out. Sprout Social surveyed 1,022 U.S. consumers and found that:
“People want brands to take stands on important issues, and social media is the place for it. Two-thirds of consumers (66%) say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues, and more than half (58%) are open to this happening on social media – the top channel for consumer receptivity.”
Their “Brand Activism in 2020: Social Media Insights” research found that:
“When consumers find that a brand’s social media demonstrates shared values, 58% will buy from that brand.”
The takeaway is that consumers don’t want your silence, and using your brand’s voice to take a stand moves the needle. Publicly demonstrating concern for the environment and climate change is an authentic way to show shared values with Gen Y and Gen Z, who tend to have more concern for global warming than older generations:
Brands targeting younger generations are continually looking for new ways to strengthen those relationships. Earth Day is a golden opportunity to make that connection without being controversial or cloying. And, of course, it gives your company an opportunity to make a positive impact on an enormous global issue.
A Brief History of Earth Day
Earth Day is a national event founded in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson in response to the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill, the largest oil spill in the U.S. at the time (it currently ranks third behind Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez). This set in motion a series of important events eventually leading to the creation of the EPA, the passage of the Clean Water Act, and a lot of other very important environmental legislation.
In 1990 Earth Day became a global event with over 140 countries and 200+ million people participating. At that time, recycling was the focus.
2020 marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. While many environmental concerns need to be addressed, the primary focus is currently on climate change. Today, over 190 countries and over 1 billion people are mobilized worldwide for transformative action.
How can your company raise awareness and contribute to this important cause on April 22nd? How can your marketing chops make a difference this year? How many people can you reach, inspire, motivate, or mobilize?
Top Earth Day Content Marketing and Social Media Campaigns
Here’s a round-up of some of the most noteworthy, creative, and inspiring Earth Day marketing campaigns from major brands and some insight into what makes them effective. These campaigns are sure to get your creative juices flowing:
Yeti – Yeti+ Streaming Service
For Earth Day 2020, Yeti launched a streaming service of actual streams. On their site, you can view “live streams” of actual streams from around the world, including such scenic spots as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Big Island, Hawaii, and Vancouver, Canada.
The sights and sounds of the streams are surprisingly soothing. Yeti+ is more than just a humorous play on words and a fun nod at streaming sites like Disney+; this content has legitimate relaxation value. I found myself going back to this site several times throughout the week when I needed to decompress.
If we peek behind the curtain, we see the resourceful genius of this content campaign. A high-resolution GoPro and a few plane tickets were basically all that was needed to capture the footage (it’s not really a live stream, it’s ~ 10-minute clips on a loop). It’s a very simple campaign that relies on the beauty of nature and a cute concept. It was perfectly on-brand, and the timing worked well during a year when people were stressed out and stuck at home. The campaign made quite a splash, getting considerable attention and coverage.
Just – #EarthEveryday
Just is a plant-based egg maker, and they started their Earth Day campaign on April 23rd to make a point — that Earth Day shouldn’t just be on April 22nd, Earth Day should be every day. They shared daily food-related tips and facts with the hashtag #EarthEveryDay to spread sustainable facts and awareness across their social accounts.
“Something useful to do with all the broken tortilla chips at the bottom of every bag.” #EarthEveryDay
— JUST Egg (@justegg)
May 14, 2020
Michelob Ultra – #GoldFaithful viral Twitter Campaign
This #EarthDay reconnect with nature from wherever you are. From sunrise to sunset, watch a livestream of Old Faithful and every time it erupts is a chance to win a year of Pure Gold. Follow @MichelobULTRA and tweet #GoldFaithful & #Sweepstakes during any eruption to enter. pic.twitter.com/vJQyJxvrV3
— Michelob ULTRA (@MichelobULTRA) April 21, 2020
While everyone was stuck inside quarantining and the National parks were closed, Michelob took the opportunity to bring the experience of Old Faithful, Yellowstone’s famous geyser, to us via a viral Twitter campaign. The brand also donated $1 for each case of Michelob sold from April 22nd to May 22nd to the National Park Foundation. Donations to good causes have proven to enhance brand perception and increase favor with consumers, so it might be good to work some kind of fundraiser into your campaign this year — even if you’re only donating a portion of your profits from sales.
NASA – Earth Day Posters and Wallpapers
NASA’s famous artist Jenna Mottar created high-resolution posters and wallpapers that can be downloaded from NASA’s site and printed or used as background images. For 2020 they released an iconic image of Earth’s land and waters forming the likeness of a human heart.
NASA always knocks Earth Day out of the park, but for the 50th anniversary, they knew they had to do something special. This video tells the full story:
While you may not have the resources to take photos from space, you can leverage your company’s existing artistic talent to create something beautiful and inspiring to share with the world on Earth Day.
Hyundai – Dark Selfie Challenge
Hyundai went all-in on a viral campaign with a one-two combination: a celebrity team up with K-pop sensation BTS and a fun viral challenge. The challenge/contest went like this:
- Turn off the lights and take a selfie with the flash on.
- Upload the photo with the hashtag #DarkSelfieChallenge #EarthDay and tag @hyundai.lifestyle.
- Tag your friends to include them in a chance to win a prize from BTS—winners announced May 8th.
Help the planet from home! With Hyundai, I’m taking part in the #DarkSelfieChallenge. Turn all the lights off and take a selfie with the flash on. Show yourself in the dark to shed light on climate change.#DarkSelfieChallenge #EarthDay #StayHome #HyundaixBTS #NEXO @BTS_twt pic.twitter.com/a9XDwSb1Ue
— Hyundai Worldwide (@Hyundai_Global) April 29, 2020
The symbolism was that the campaign was “shedding some light” on climate change and environmental protection.
It was smart of Hyundai to include influencer marketing in their viral campaign. It gave participants in their viral challenge an extra incentive to participate. Encouraging participants to loop in their friends to enter them into the contest was also a clever viral catalyst.
Budweiser – Can Redesign + Donation
Budweiser Canada went above and beyond with their Earth Day marketing campaign going so far they changed their can design and donated a portion of their proceeds.
— Budweiser Canada (@BudweiserCanada) April 26, 2020
They incorporated an empathetic message about the quarantine set against an awe-inspiring view of the planet set to a powerful soundtrack creating an impactful piece of content. The changes to their product and the scale of their donation show the level of their commitment, so there is consistency between their message and their actions giving this short ad campaign authenticity.
Changes to the product
Michelob Ultra – Pure Gold Ad Blocker
In 2019 Michelob released a Chrome extension that replaced ads with idyllic nature photography. Clicking on the imagery redirects you to a site with information on nearby parks, encouraging you to head into the great outdoors.
What we have here is an all-around winner of an Earth Day campaign. Michelob released a utility tool that does something useful by blocking ads but rather than just leaving the space blank, it filled it in with incredible nature scenes and even helped encourage you to get outside.
While it took some planning ahead to get the extension built in time for Earth Day, it was probably relatively inexpensive to produce and distribute, showing that these kinds of campaigns are more about the quality of the idea than the size of the budget.
The North Face – National Holiday Push
The North Face used its influence to push for Earth Day to become a national holiday (it’s currently only considered a national event). They teamed up with 15 other organizations to launch a Change.org petition that currently has close to 200k signatures.
This ambitious campaign shows the power of teamwork. Sure, The North Face is a powerful brand with talented marketers, a huge following, and massive online influence, but could they have done as much by themselves? Probably not. Alliances and co-marketing allow you to combine efforts to get more done and make an even bigger impact than you ever could working solo.
What organizations align well with your own? Who might be interested in teaming up this year on an amazing Earth Day campaign?
The New York Times – The Truth Is Worth It
It’s true, we don’t all have a brand and product that so conveniently lines up with an Earth Day topic like the New York Times, but their 2019 Earth Day campaign is a brilliant example of exactly that.
With this short 30-second ad spot, they highlighted the value of their investigative journalism and their commitment to exploring the world to find the truth — especially as it pertains to important topics like environmentalism and climate change. It makes a powerful statement on the environment, but it’s a one-two punch that also drives home the value of their journalism and investigative work. It’s wicked smart marketing; whoever came up with the campaign deserves a beer, a raise, and a high-five.
Busch – “Rooted In Love” Book Fundraiser
I don’t know what it is with big U.S. beer companies and amazing, generous Earth Day content campaigns, but I love it. For 2019 Busch created a book featuring photos and information about amazing and noteworthy trees from across the United States. Called “A love letter to America’s trees” by Adweek, it was $20, and all proceeds went to the National Forest Foundation.
Want a copy? Me too. Good luck, they sold out quickly in 2019, and I couldn’t find a copy anywhere online even after spending way too much time searching.
Pokemon Go – Earth Day Impact + Rewards
For 2018, Pokemon Go users were able to obtain special perks and rewards for attending certain clean up events. There were 68 of these events around the world, and over 4,000 players showed up to claim the rewards. A similar campaign in 2019 led to clean-up of 145 tons of trash!
Niantic’s Pokemon Go is an innovative game that combines on-screen gameplay with real-world interaction. Their Earth Day campaign took that a step further and created a positive real-world impact. Hopefully, we’ll see a lot more of the virtual world positively impacting the real world in the future.
Making Your 2021 Earth Day Campaign a Success
As you can see from these campaigns, they’re more about creativity and resourcefulness than the size of your budget. Even huge brands often put together relatively inexpensive campaigns, so don’t feel like you have to spend to succeed.
We can see a few practical takeaways and recurring themes:
Invest time into the idea.
Spend a lot of time upfront brainstorming solo and with your team. You’ll know when you’ve hit on the right concept or campaign.
Leverage what you have.
We see brands using their existing assets and products. What can you do with what you’ve already got? What can you do with your product, your talents, and your assets on hand?
Incorporate a viral component.
If you’re going to put so much work into your campaign, your goal should be to get it seen by as many people as possible, and a viral component helps make that happen. Be sure you research what makes a viral campaign successful. There is a pretty proven formula for this.
Incorporate visually stunning imagery.
The Earth makes this part kind of easy — it’s pretty easy to get beautiful, awe-inspiring nature shots. The trick is to incorporate your brand and message with custom photography or videography, which begins with a Creative Brief. You can also download our free creative brief template here.