Recycling at UBC: Making it as easy as 1-2-3

I go to UBC, which is on its way to becoming one of the most sustainable universities in North America. UBC states: SUSTAINABILITY defines UBC as a university. Through our collective efforts in education, research, partnerships and operations, we advance sustainability on our campus and beyond.” With the UBC Sustainability Initiative leading the charge, UBC is committed to focusing on the campus as a living laboratory and the university as an agent of change. In fact, UBC is home to the greenest building in North America.

Opened in 2011, the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) is a “living laboratory” that is currently the most sustainable building in North America.

I am proud of what UBC has accomplished. I am proud of what UBC has committed to. I am proud of what UBC is working on. I am not proud of UBC’s current recycling practices, or the unsustainable recycling behaviour of UBC students. Some might argue that students have the tools to recycle. Our containers in the Student Union Building are biodegradable. We have recycling bins. We’re discussing a move to ban the sale of bottled water on campus. So why do I see photocopies and soda cans in the trash? Our student body is educated; we know better than to engage in this sloppy and lazy behaviour. So why don’t we?

We know that to influence behaviours, we must engage in (some of) the following activities:

  1. Remove barriers
  2. Provide incentives
  3. Impose penalties for alternate behaviours
  4. Give feedback
  5. Capitalize on commitment
  6. Use prompts
  7. Develop social norms
  8. Communicate congruently

With respect to norms, we are all socially aware of the injunctive norm that we need to recycle. However, all across campus we are surrounded by descriptive norms of those who throw everything in the trash rather than take the time to recycle. I have done some observation as well as questioned my peers, and I believe the main barriers to recycling on campus are:

  1. Poor recycling facilities / bins
  2. Unclear labeling of which items go in which bin
  3. Lack of prompts

In the Sauder School of Business’s home building, Henry Angus, we have minimal availability of recycling facilities / bins. I  believe that students want to recycle, we just aren’t given easy access to the necessary tools. Personally, despite my knowledge or recycling, I find it de-motivating that when I leave my classrooms, I have to first find a place to recycle. There are perhaps two disposal bins per floor for recycling, but garbage bins aplenty, and I have only ever found paper recycling bins – we do not have any recycling bins for cans or aluminum or organic waste that I am aware of (at least nearby classrooms). Furthermore, the bins we have are the massive bins that belong in the storage room. Well-organized bins, such as the ones below, would clearly illustrate where waste should be placed and would ultimately increase the frequency of recycling.

I propose we develop an organized waste management system that incorporates four to five clearly labelled bins, using visuals and colour to engage students and make the system simple. There should be a bin for (landfill) waste, food waste, paper products, organic products, and glass / aluminum products. Other schools have achieved great success with similar systems. They do not need to be large, and can actually be quite visually appealing. Placing these waste management systems in classrooms and hallways will inevitably increase the frequency of proper waste disposal by UBC students, furthering UBC’s commitment to a macro sustainable behaviour change.

Sample Organized Waste Management System

Additionally, I think UBC can do more to provide feedback to students. Our campus in well enroute to being sustainable; communicate this to students! Too many students are unaware of the initiatives, which I find sad because it is such a great source of pride for the UBC community. I mean, come one – which UBC student doesn’t want another bragging point when we illustrate our superiority over UVic?

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Guerilla Marketing: Is it effective?

Guerilla Marketing: (noun) Highly aggressive marketing that uses unconventional, attention-getting techniques to get maximum results from a minimal effort.

Guerilla marketing is a growing phenomenon, and consumers seem to love it. Who am I kidding … I love it! It’s fun. It’s fresh. It’s engaging. It’s impactful. I nearly always find the concepts bloody brilliant! What I find interesting is that due to the implicit non-traditional nature of guerilla marketing, it is a great opporunity for companies to consider sustainability in not just what they market, but also how they market. But is it effective?

Thefuntheory.com, a Volkswagen initiative, demonstrates that human nature leads people to be more involved in things they find fun. One of my favourite examples was shown in a marketing class, focused on trying to get more people to take the stairs rather than an escalator or elevator. Volkswagen made the stairs “singing stairs” and decorated them as piano keys, proving through video footage that people wanted to take the stairs to see what happened. Techniques like this demonstrate the value of fun and unique approaches to gaining consumer attention. Simple. To-the-point. Achieves sustainability from a social health perspective.

More recently, Reebok and CrossFit teamed up to create the largest 3D painting in the world in London’s Canary Wharf area, breaking the Guiness World Record! Generating consumer engagement, Reebok and CrossFit encouraged consumers to complete their workout on a snowy ledge over the extreme canyon depicted below, sharing their images through social media. I was beyond impressed by the 1,160.4 square meters by 106.5 square meters picture showcasing a stunning waterfall and deep canyon. The concept is brilliant!

Reebok & CrossFit 3D Guerilla Marketing

Based on these two examples, it is clear that in order to guerilla marketing to be successful, it must be eye-catching, engaging, and fun. Like traditional marketing, I believe that guerrilla marketing still needs a call to action to be effective, whether it’s a call for purchase or engagement. However, guerilla marketing intended solely as presence marketing would obviously not require the same call to action. Considering the overall positive consumer response to guerilla marketing, I would argue that yes – it is effective. Some other guerrilla marketing campaigns that I think deserve notable mention are:

7-Eleven converted some of their stores to look like Kwik E Marts leading up to the release of the Simpsons movie.

Havaianas used flowerbeds in the shape of their sandals.

The City of Denver cleverly removed a large portion of a bench in an effort to encourage responsible water use. As a sustainability nerd, their use of guerilla marketing to encourage sustainable behaviour is one of my favourites!

Ikea decorated a bus stop using Ikea furniture. This effectively illustrates the multi-purpose nature, small size, and durability of Ikea products.

What are your favourite guerrilla marketing campaigns?

“Sustainable Walmart” = Oxymoron Defined

In its very essence, Walmart is the epitome of an unsustainable organization.  Like any big box store, Walmart’s are traditionally located off the beaten track where they are built on cheaper real estate, thus the very act of consumers driving to a Walmart to shop is one of many illustrations of unsustainability. It’s like the “Outlet Mall Fallacy” – by the time consumers factor in their time, gas, wear and tear on their vehicle, and so on, is it really worth it to go all the way to Walmart to shop?

Plagued by critics condemning them for poor employee practices, perpetuating labour violations among suppliers, and similarly negative sentiments, Walmart is a company used to controversy. When they rebranded, changing the company name from Wal-Mart to Walmart and developing a refreshed colour scheme and logo design, Walmart introduced a new sustainability commitment.

Sustainable Walmart – Am I the only person who finds this oxymoronic?

As a large corporation, Walmart has a significant sphere of influence. Consequently, I believe they have a correspondingly large responsibility to demonstrate sustainable and positive behaviours. Walmart seems to be addressing this from a triple bottom line perspective: the economy, the environment, and the society. But what implications will these measures have for Walmart stakeholders, particularly consumers and suppliers?

Consumers don’t shop at Walmart because it’s sustainable; in fact, in a survey I conducted two years ago, respondents overwhelming agreed they didn’t actually care if Walmart was sustainable. This leads me to question why Walmart bothered introducing these sustainability measures, particularly as Sam Walton’s original approach was solely on a low-price focus: “Always low prices. Always.” The most logical conclusion I can draw is that it has to do with proactively making changes so that regulatory changes have a reduced negative impact on the corporation and their image. That, and it’s a great way for Walmart to improve their image.

Walmart’s “Responsible Growth” Advertisement

By introducing measures such as the Supplier Sustainability Index, Walmart is putting top-down pressure on suppliers to enhance practices to incorporate greater efficiency and sustainability. On the flip side, the very nature of Walmart’s supply structure demands quick turnover and response time by suppliers; in order to meet Walmart’s steep demands, suppliers have often cut corners in areas like employee well-being and health standards. Nonetheless, this increased pressure on suppliers is likely to result in changes throughout the entire commodities sector.

Historically, Walmart’s activities and efforts have had a domino effect on the economy and business practices; the same will likely be true as Walmart continues to reinforce their commitment to triple bottom line sustainability. One thing is clear: Walmart’s current strategy transcends founder Walton’s initial strategy of focusing almost solely on low prices; the company is demonstrating a greater commitment to the “how” rather than just the end product. Despite the significant discourse faced by Walmart, they are becoming progressively harder to hate as they address many of the areas and business practices long condemned by supporters and critics. As writer Lloyd Alter aptly stated, “The Wal-Mart Effect may yet do for the environment what it did for the American economy, which was to affect us all, whether we shopped there or not.”

Hashtags: The future of consumer engagement in advertising

Superbowl 45 broke records. Record breaking 111.3 million viewers. Record 10,000 tweets per second in the final 3 minutes of the game. Most-watched halftime show ever by 114 million viewers. Did Superbowl 45 generate a new trend for advertisements too?

Social media is prevalent. It’s no secret. One of the keys to good advertisements is the incorporation of a call to action, either through a link to a website, a deal, or a  link to social media. As I’ve discussed before with the #McDStories and #BeBold promoted hashtag failures by McDonalds and RIM respectively, company-generated social media campaigns are hard to manage. It didn’t seem to stop companies from taking the plunge within their ads during the Superbowl.

Last year, Audi  incorporated a hashtag into their advertisement for the first time, setting a trend for this year’s ads. Last year, it was an ad promoting a departure from old-school luxury trying to rejuvenate their brand image, using the hashtag #ProgressIs. The hashtag was small and understated, compared to the blatant and bold promotion of their hashtag this year. Generating considerable buzz, many experts considered it the campaign of the week!

Audi: #SoLongVampires

Bud Light: #makeitplatinum

H&M David Beckham Underwear: #beckhamforhm

Jack in the Box: #marrybacon

Hulu Plus: #mushymush

General Electric: #WhatWorks

Best Buy: #betterway

You would have thought they would take the hint from McDonalds and RIM #epicfail-ing at trying to shape social media interaction. With a record-breaking amount of Tweeting going on during the Superbowl, it comes as no surprise that even these giant corporations lost some control of the message.

Personally, I thought it was an interesting way of generating discussion on social media. Given my feelings about McDonalds and RIM’s misguided efforts, I had a good internal laugh. In fact, I helped mismanage these hashtags, using them to discuss what I didn’t like about the advertisements of a lot of these companies, including Audi and H&M David Beckham Underwear. However, I also played into their intended purpose for companies like General Electric.

Interestingly, I found that I remembered the hashtags in some instances and not the company to which they referred. For example, even as I was writing this blog post I linked “#makeitplatinum” with Molson and not Bud Light. More evidence that perhaps these company-generated hashtags are not necessarily achieving the desired goals. Also, ads like Clint Eastwood’s Halftime in America generated significant buzz with consumers generating #halftimeinamerica on their own. This goes to show that a good ad can have the desired effect without the company generating it themselves.

TopsyLabs Sentiment Analysis

Overall, statistics suggest these companies that directly engaged consumers with their social media received greater presence in online discussions. I’m interested to see if this trend will continue beyond the Superbowl. I plan to watch and ultimately analyze the response to these hashtags, results that will be presented in the coming weeks.

With the ongoing increase in social media use, a call to action directing consumers to corporate accounts will undoubtedly increase engagement. I believe that such direct calls to action are valuable, but am interested to see how companies manage the potential misuse of things like hashtags. In my last posting, I proposed some methods of controlling discussion in an effort to mitigate negativity and preventing evolution into bashtags; is this enough?

So today I leave you with some questions: Do you engage with company-generated hashtags? If so, is it done in the way they intend or do you turn it into a bashtag?

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Superbowl 45 Ads

Sex sells. Or so we’ve seen in ads for as long as I can remember. This year, however, we learned something new. Humour sells better, at least in this context for this demographic. Pepsi and Elton John got Superbowl 45 off to a bang with a drag, Lady Gaga-esque version of Game of Thrones. The parody had us all laughing and excited to see what else would be thrown our way during the Superbowl; we were disappointed.

The Mind-blowing

Imported from Detroit. Since Eminem’s spin at the wheel of last years Imported from Detroit ad, I’ve been a big fan. This year, Clint Eastwood assumed the lead in Chrysler’s Its Halftime America ad. His gruff demeanour and distinct voice fit the bill perfectly. It was the only ad that leveraged a somewhat emotional appeal that I found hard to look away from.

The Good

The Chevy Sonic Stunt Anthem ad, depicting the new Sonic model in a multitude of “first time experiences” from bungee jumping to sky diving was an undeniable hit among my Superbowl crew. Witty. Intriguing. Jaw dropping. Brilliantly done. Chevy actually produced a number of our favourite ads during this years Superbowl, including the

Adrianna Lima. Is there a human being alive who doesn’t acknowledge this lingerie model as being one of the world’s most beautiful women? Her role in the Kia A Dream Car – For Real Life ad wasn’t actually what made it click; the overall concept and parody on the stereotypical “Once upon a time” fairy tale was refreshing and well executed.

Other honourable mentions include the consumer-generated Doritos chip-stealing baby ad,  E-Trade’s Fatherhood talking baby ad (careful ETrade, you weren’t the only ones using babies this year), and the Skechers racing dog ad.

The Meh

I enjoy a topless David Beckham as much as the next person, but the H&M David Beckham underwear ad was actually kind of boring. I know, I know – sacrilegious to ever refer to a barely-dressed Beckham, but it’s true. If they’re going to feature someone this delightful, at least make it intriguing! I definitely expected something more inspired from H&M.

Coca Cola’s Polar Bears are officially played out. Although I appreciate the clear link to football, the ads just didn’t click for me. They were borderline boring, and there were just too many of them. “Catch” was my favourite of the Coca Cola Polar Bear ads this year. Pepsi took the trophy in this year’s Superbowl Coke Battle.

Vampires. Really? We aren’t past this yet? The Twilight fad is arguably ebbing, but apparently Audi didn’t get the memo. Although the concept of the Audi Vampire Party ad itself was pretty funny and a witty way to demonstrate their product differentiation (great headlights), as soon as we saw vampire teeth popping out my whole crew gave one unanimous groan.

The Cringe-Worthy

GoDaddy.com produced truly cringe-worthy ads this year …. again. Sexist. Played out. Uninspired. GoDaddy.com succeeded in being borderline offensive this year. Congrats! Blatant sexuality doesn’t seem to have resonated even with the men in my Superbowl crew; it simply succeeded in being crude. I’m embarrassed to have purchased my domain from and host my website, www.briannablaney.com, with GoDaddy.com. Clearly, I’m not a customer they want – not with ads like this.

Adrianna Lima was part of a hit and a miss. Her ad for Teleflora just didn’t make sense. The ad relied too much on sex appeal and didn’t have a clear or coherent message. I was intrigued at the beginning, but by the end I was just confused – and I know I wasn’t the only one.

By the end of the evening, even the most optimistic of us were questioning whether the era of mind-blowing Superbowl ads had finally come to an end. I found the majority of ads lukewarm with few hitting the mark, qualifying for the Hot Pepper factor. What was your favourite ad this year?

#BeBold & #McDStories: hashtag campaign #FAIL

Hashtag: (noun) The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.

RIM and McDonald’s have both recently learned the hard way in the past couple of weeks that hashtags are meant to be created bottom-up by Twitter users, not fed top-down by corporations. Tweeters have been having a field day hijacking McDonald’s promoted #MeetTheFarmers paid Twitter campaign. McDonald’s switched mid-stride from #MeetTheFarmers to #McDStories when the initial hashtag failed to trend – bad move!

Expecting stories about families visiting their restaurants and other similarly positive stories, McDonald’s never foresaw the backlash of their newest hashtag campaign. Hijacking Tweeters used the hashtag to rant about McDonald’s, linking the hashtag to stories about employee mistreatment, animal cruelty, and health issues. A company as polarizing as McDonald’s has its share of supporters and critics; as one Tweeter succinctly summarized the situation: “The only surprising thing about the #McDStories #fail was that they didn’t see it coming.”

What shocks me even more is that one week after the #McDStories hashtag fail, RIM introduced the #BeBold hashtag: insert hashtag #fail number two! Despite RIM reporting 35,000 appropriate interactions with the hashtag, hijackers once again took over, dominating the Twitterverse with messages linked to technology frustrations and corporate weakening. The #BeBold campaign was coupled with a highly criticized brand faux pas involving a quartet of costumed superheroes as mascots; one more demonstration by RIM that they are terribly out of touch with their consumers.

What can we learn from RIM and McDonald’s respective hashtag #fail stories? Social media is ruthless. Relinguishing control of your message, involving consumers in the discussion, is risky business. Constrained framing, distinct direction, and proactive management are vital to success. When McDonald’s hashtag went negatively viral, the company attempted to backtrack and reverse the issue rather than proactively dealing with the fallout, interacting with the hijackers. Listening to consumers, responding to their concerns, and engaging in discussion could have leant nicely to a pseudo-recovery for McDonald’s and RIM.

Social media can be a sustainable marketers best friend or worst enemy. It’s a finicky beast. Enter Kenneth Cole and their #epicfail hashtag hijacking the #Cairo hashtag during the Egypt uprisings against the government. Capitalizing on a trending hashtag, Kenneth Cole effectively alienated thousands with one of the most controversial hashtag campaigns to date. Ethically wrong. Morally corrupt. This attempt reflected terribly on the fashion house.

Overall lesson learned: tread carefully when developing promoted hashtag campaigns or they will quickly turn into out-of-control bashtag campaigns. Social media is an animal that few can predict and none can control.

Bashtag: (noun) Tweeter hijacking of a promoted hashtag, manipulating the hashtag in ways harmful to the hashtag promoter.