Monday, June 22, 2009

Rock the Outdoors!

Some of my best post ideas come from friends as is the case with the Nature Rocks campaign from The Nature Conservancy. Thanks!

This is a complex, highly-integrated campaign that’s rather difficult to pick apart on two levels. The first is The Nature Conservancy program itself. The second is its relationship to a program sponsored by another national environmental organization.

TNC itself is sending the welcome page (left below) to its own email list. I didn’t get the original email, so I don’t know whether they sent the page itself or a text link to it. The welcome page is the home page of a campaign microsite. The objective of this campaign is explicit; empower parents to enjoy the outdoors this summer with their children by giving them necessary tools. The page has a user-submitted image that changes daily and the opportunity to submit your own nature pictures. When you click through you find a robust content page (right below).
The main campaign page lists outdoor activities in the left bar and more in-depth planning resources on the right bar. I looked at some, not all, of the Nature Activities. There’s lots of information and some interactivity (a carbon footprint calculator). Their newsletter is described as the Great Places Network; interesting but a bit confusing.

In terms of integration, look at the nav bar at the top of the Nature Rocks page and the TNC home page, right. The TNC nav bar graces the top of both pages. (No icon for Nature Rocks; the My Nature Page takes you to the campaign page).

In one sense, the duplication of the nav bar is good integration. It, however, makes it rather difficult to navigate around the Nature Rocks site. From most of the activities page you can use the back button (once you discover that Home takes you to the TNC home page!) to get back to the Nature Rocks main page. On the newsletter signup page I couldn’t get back at all. I had to close out and that closed me out of the entire site. This could easily have been fixed by a Back to the Nature Rocks Home Page text link at the top of each page. Simple usability testing! But overall, a great site with a succinct mission statement at the top of each page.

I didn’t set up a My Nature Page, although I’m a huge fan of personal pages and content feeds. What it reminded me of, though, is a classic question from CRM. When groups get too enthused about the concept I ask, “Do you want to have a relationship with your ketchup?” In the traditional context, most people answer “No.” Web 2.0 has changed that; think back to the Heinz promotions. But it hasn’t changed the basic premise. Each of us, individual or family, has the time and energy to manage only a few relationships. When we set up a personal page and invest time and effort in it, will we want to change? Think first mover advantage here, although better ideas can always trump.

When I searched to find out what kind of PR they were getting I discovered a whole other aspect of the campaign. Briefly, it’s a national campaign sponsored by The Children and Nature Network. The objective of the campaign is to provide local grassroots organizations with tools to help children experience the outdoors. It links to a Nature Rocks main page, which lists TNC, REI as well as C&NN as the partners in the endeavor.

By now, are you confused? Probably! Unless you follow the links, you don’t see how it all fits together. That’s the marketer perspective—and when you take the trouble to tease it out, both the C&NN and TNC programs have clear objectives, my signal that there’s a significant underlying strategy. Each is one piece of the puzzle, and there obviously are others.

The visitor doesn’t care. There’s great information on each site. The sites link together to provide more good content; they provide a pretty good user experience, and they really do offer tools to parents who are challenged in terms of outdoor experience for their children.

A word about REI. I saw their partnership in the first press release I found. I couldn’t find anything else that touted their involvement—including anywhere on their web site. REI does a lot of good things. Why fail to promote one of them? I’ve written a lot lately about cause-related marketing because I think it's a great way to create positive brand associations while doing real good.

This is a great program and any parent can find tools for successful outdoor experience. A lot of parents will find it valuable. Kudoos to TNC and other organizations who are getting the word out about these tools!

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