Green Mountain Coffee gains buzz with fair trade awareness campaign

Client: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.
Agency: BzzAgent
Drive sales by educating consumers about fair trade and enhance their understanding of its benefits

Coffee drinking is often a social activity, which is why it made sense for Green Mountain to tap BzzAgent, the social arm of dunnhumby, when the brand embarked on a broad push to promote its fair trade-certified coffee line.

“There’s higher awareness of what fair trade means in Europe, but not in the U.S.,” says Malcolm Faulds, SVP of marketing at BzzAgent. “In the U.S. there’s good awareness of what ‘organic’ means, but fair trade is a more abstract concept and it often gets clumped in with organic, when actually they’re very different things.”

While organic simply means naturally grown, fair trade is about incentivizing sustainable farming practices. Green Mountain Coffee took a “social” approach to clarifying that difference among stateside coffee drinkers. The coffee company and BzzAgent orchestrated an integrated effort that combined social, digital, word-of-mouth, direct mail, coupons, and product sampling to create a flowing conversation around Green Mountain Coffee fair trade goods.

The approach centers on members of BzzAgent’s online forum of engaged consumers, who voluntarily participate in word-of-mouth campaigns. BzzAgents, as they’re called, double opt-in—once to agree to receive communications from BzzAgent and then again for each campaign. They also link their various social accounts to the BzzAgent network, and receive direct mail pieces, product samples, and coupons. The goal is to spark chatter, generate honest feedback, and build brand advocacy among members.

Personal recommendations and word-of-mouth promotions are especially important when it comes to consumer packaged goods (CPG), says Derek J. Archambault, senior brand manager at Green Mountain Coffee. “[They’ve] long been the ‘Holy Grail’ of marketing, so being able to initiate that through BzzAgent is very valuable,” Archambault says.

STRATEGY: After vetting roughly 30,000 to 40,000 potential advocates, BzzAgent identified 10,000 frequent coffee drinkers in the BzzAgent network who fit Green Mountain Coffee’s desired target audience of consumers: those of relative affluence with an average age of 38 who regularly shop for either K-cups or bags of ground coffee and live in areas where fair trade products are readily available.

The targeted group then received a Green Mountain Coffee “BzzKit” in the mail, including coupons, samples for both personal use and pass-along, and an educational packet with background information on the nuances of fair trade. Items in the BzzKit corresponded to online activity. Recipients were also provided with tips via email on how to initiate social discussions and keep them going both digitally and through face-to-face interactions. For example, one email contained a fair trade coffee cake recipe that participants could share with friends.

What people do when they’re not plugged in is just as important as digital actions, BzzAgents’ Faulds notes. “We don’t just exist as online people, and coffee in particular is a social thing—you drink it with people and you talk about it with people, and we wanted to create a program that coexists with coffee-drinking moments, whether that’s at the breakfast table or after dinner or whenever,” Faulds says. “Yes, a lot of the engagement can happen online, but online is about reinforcing the key themes and driving the offline activity.”

RESULTS: Brand advocates shared fair trade information with more than 1.8 million people, through both online and offline interactions, while knowledge of what fair trade certification means increased by 77% among the BzzAgent participants.

With help from Chicago-based CPG market research firm SymphonyIRI Group, Green Mountain Coffee also identified a whopping 14.5% sales lift.

“We looked to bring a simple message of ‘fair trade means better coffee for you and a better life for farmers,” Green Mountain Coffee’s Archambault says. “The ability to initiate conversations between consumers through BzzAgent resulted in a much higher understanding of fair trade.”

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