NWF plans large-scale cause marketing push

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The National Wildlife Federation will carefully examine its marketing mix
The National Wildlife Federation will carefully examine its marketing mix

In a shift away from grass­roots fundraising and aware­ness efforts, nonprofit National Wildlife Foundation (NWF), has signed New York-based brand and advertising agency Union Green as its first agency of record and Boston-based Cone LLC, a full-service marketing company that specializes in nonprofits and cause marketing.

Jamie Matyas, COO and EVP of marketing at NWF, said, “The bottom line is that we're not an advertising agency, so in order to develop a consistent message cross-platform we need to partner with the best cause marketers in the business.”

Both Union Green and Cone bring market research to the table, and according to Matyas, research has helped NWF to determine exactly how to mar­ket its brands to a wide range of people across the US.

With an audience mix of par­ents, children and teens, Matyas admitted, “In the past, we didn't do enough to target each of our demographic segments. Union Green is helping us promote the correct marketing medium to the right audience.”

To that point, NWF is looking at blogs in a much more con­certed manner, “as a means of informing mothers of several of our education programs.”

NWF also has a successful col­lege campus program aimed to help students and administrators reduce their carbon footprint.

“We used to host face-to-face on-campus events, type a printed case study detailing which cam­puses were the most successful, and then distribute the report,” said Matyas, adding that the NWF has shifted its campus efforts to the Web in order to more appropriately target that age demographic.

With Cone, the nonprofit plans to improve the marketing of its education programs, including its portfolio of mag­azines such as Ranger Rick and Your Big Backyard that target young children and their families.

“For years, we've had tremendous pro­grams for families, such as 40-year-old publishing brand Ranger Rick, as well as programs like Great American Backyard Campout, but we haven't yet found a way to integrate these activities,” said Matyas. “From an audience perspective, we also have not managed them in a way that best taps how each brand can play off the others.”

According to Matyas, NWF is looking to Cone to help reconceptualize its brand portfolio, with a focus on Ranger Rick. While it's looked at as a kid's magazine, NWF and Cone are looking to stay true to the brand's equity but still broaden the experience of the print publication. Both organizations are looking to market the brand through online avenues and out­door programs.

By leveraging the NWF brand, its 30-plus partners generate $40 million annually. The NWF business overall is worth $90 million annually.

“Ultimately, we're going to look at how consumers and constituents are viewing environmental issues and then create an umbrella brand,” said Alison DaSilva, VP, knowledge leadership and insights, at Cone. “Often times, nonprofits have so many rich assets spread throughout the organization. We want to begin pack­aging those that are most meaningful un­der this campaign.”

Because the deal was just signed this week, Cone has no national sponsors or corporate partners on board for the pro­grams yet. It is still working on its initial strategy with NWF.

“National sponsors and corporate partners will be a huge point of inter­est; namely, marketing communications, education, cause marketing and events,” said DaSilva.

The Union Green partnership began primarily as a way to expand the scope of the NWF's Great American Backyard Campout. Now in its fourth year, the event is a one-night event for families, youth and individuals to camp out in their backyards or local parks. Because it started as an education program, the event's first three years were not sup­ported by traditional advertising.

“There was zero paid media and only a few mentions on the Web — but the vol­ume of people involved was incredible,” said Matyas. Ultimately, though, partici­pation well exceeded our word-of-mouth marketing and we brought on Union Green as a way to further capitalize on the potential of the program.”

Going forward, Union Green and NWF are looking to expand the scope of Great American Backyard Campout, cre­ating an experience that extends beyond one day.

According to Matyas, some ideas be­ing tossed around are additional events throughout the year, online event sites and community events.

While timing is tight this year, with the next Great American Backyard Campout set to occur on June 28, Union Green will still develop a creative palette with branding and imagery that is consistent across the Web platform and any online advertising for the event.

“In future years,” said Matyas, “we will have the ability to build on these design elements for consistency's sake.” Working with a green agency assures that the materials used will be less resource-intense, but it doesn't mean dis­regarding paper-based ads, he added.

“We are trying to make all traditional and non-traditional forms of advertis­ing more environmentally responsible,” explained Union Green founder, partner and president Bob Wyatt. “We envision exploring every existing medium.”

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