Photo-sharing Web site PhotoPoint.com has joined a cause to save the nation's national parks as part of a viral e-mail marketing effort to boost awareness of its brand with consumers.
Starting Memorial Day weekend and continuing through Labor Day, PhotoPoint's “One for the Parks” program lets site visitors send a free electronic postcard with a photo of their favorite national park to the president and members of Congress.
Every electronic postcard will be automatically delivered with a message that calls for assigning 1 percent of the federal budget surplus to be spent on maintaining parks that are in need of immediate repair and preservation.
“We need to continue to acquire members, and [the] national parks [promotion] allows us to align our brand with altruistic causes that really fit so well with photos. And then the second step is to personalize our marketing efforts to those members and later monetize those members,” said Loretta Stagnito, vice president of marketing at PhotoPoint Inc., San Francisco.
PhotoPoint currently attracts 1.7 million unique visitors a month and gets over 60,000 new photos a day for posting. Since its launch in the fall of 1998, the site has received 10 million photos.
The new national parks campaign debuts in time for the summer travel season, when foot traffic to parks ramps up. Nearly 100 million people visited national parks last year, further straining their facilities and ecosystems — a key concern for PhotoPoint and its promotion's co-sponsor, national parks catalog publisher The Parks Company.
To participate in the postcard e-mailing process, visitors to www.photopoint.com are offered two options: either use photos of national parks already archived at the site by entering a zip code or use their own park photos, which visitors can upload themselves.
The cards will automatically be sent to the president, the consumer's two state senators and local members of Congress. While wording may differ, the one constant line is “I'm One for the Parks. It's time you were One for the Parks too.”
“Ideally, at the low end, we hope to send 30,000 e-postcards to members of Congress [and the president],” Stagnito said, adding that this may go as high as 100,000. If this promotion succeeds, PhotoPoint hopes to acquire between 50,000 and 100,000 new members, she said.
The national parks campaign is supported by ads that run in magazines and guides sold in parks and on travel-related Web sites.
Add to this effort help from AmazingMail.com, a service that allows users to create custom postcards on their computers and to send them to real mailboxes by the U.S. Postal Service.
AmazingMail will support the parks initiative by contributing free hard-copy postcards for mailing to friends of each electronic postcard sender. The sender has to furnish the street mailing addresses of these friends. The postcard will ask the sender's friends to visit PhotoPoint and to send electronic postcards of their own.
But the interesting development is the data that is gathered from visitors to PhotoPoint's site. In the past, PhotoPoint required members who posted photos to furnish only their e-mail addresses. Now, participants in this new initiative also are expected to yield opt-in details such as ZIP code, age, gender, city and state.
Once this information is provided, PhotoPoint will start sending opt-in consumers targeted pitches for products and services such as photo accessories and the development of prints. The dot-com is in talks with retail chains to allow consumers to drop off film rolls at stores for uploading onto the PhotoPoint site. Store customers can then choose online the prints they want to process.
PhotoPoint also is exploring other revenue-generating opportunities, such as the willingness of members to pay for regular and premium memberships, cookies and cakes that bear photos of their choosing and items that can be personalized.
Sources of revenue for PhotoPoint currently include paid advertising on the site and sales of books, gifts and cameras through links with Amazon.com and iPrint.com.
The national parks promotion is a key step for PhotoPoint to corral more members, gain better demographic data on them and then sell services and products in an online photo category that often is identified more with free services than e-commerce.
“It's a significant way in how online photo-sharing sites will have to monetize their services,” Stagnito said of her company's efforts.