We Salute Darrell: Burner, Booth Builder, Earth Booster

Darrell and Stef and the Oakland Recycles booth
Darrell and Stef with the Oakland Recycles cart smart game.

A very enjoyable aspect of our work here at Gigantic is that we often team up with artists who bring their creativity and skills to bear for environmental behavior change.

One such collaborator is Darrell Hunger, an industrial designer with a passion for applying his creativity to solve environmental problems. A hard-to-find hybrid of nuts-n-bolts pragmatism and artistic vision, Darrell has been instrumental to many of the interactive displays and games we’ve designed for our clients over the past years. For the City of Oakland’s “test your cart smarts” event booth, Darrell turned curbside carts into a life-size sort game, complete with fake moldy peaches and carefully sauce-smeared take-out containers as “game pieces.”

food storage game
Darrell built this food storage game for the StopFoodWaste event booth.

Most recently, Darrell helped us build a game for StopWaste to help people learn the best way to store fruits and veggies, so they stay fresher longer and there’s less food waste. Looking a bit like a doll’s kitchen, the game lets players open cabinets and a fridge and peek under empty bowls sitting on the counter to find images of the foods they’re tasked to “store.” From tiny hinges to mini door handles and a sturdy collapsible stand for the game, Darrell helped us think through the design and put it all together.

With such a unique skill set, it’s not a surprise Darrell is a regular at Burning Man, specifically a member of the Earth Guardians, Burning Man’s environmental crew. They are the ones in charge of enforcing the organization’s “Leave No Trace” (LNT) policy—essentially returning Black Rock Desert to its natural state each year, as if the weeklong, crazy circus of 70,000 revelers never happened. And it’s serious business, not an esoteric goal: LNT is a requirement written into the Special Event Permit and contract Burning Man has with Nevada’s Bureau of Land Management.

For the Earth Guardians, this means recruiting, training and overseeing an army of volunteers who check on camps to make sure no gray water or automotive fluids are leaking on the desert floor, keeping people out of the hot springs, and collecting MOOP—or “Matter Out Of Place” as defined by Burning Man. This truly means anything that wasn’t originally part of Black Rock Desert, no matter how small, including beads and feathers broken loose from costumes, tiny litter pieces, wood chips and even the ash from cigarettes. To make the tedious un-MOOPing at least a bit more pleasant, volunteers get “MOOP bags” to collect the debris, sewn out of old jeans and ties months before the event by Darrell and his crew. But the Earth Guardians may already face another challenge: “Micro MOOP” such as body glitter and other particles that even the most diligent unMOOPing can’t retrieve.

Darrell at Burning Man
Darrell in his element at Burning Man

Lucky for Burners (and the rest of the world) Darrell is a master of reuse and waste prevention, and shares his skills and knowledge widely. At this year’s Burning Man, his repair workshop “Glue, screw, patch: How to fix things that break, are worn or want to be repurposed” was a huge hit. In his typical hands-on style, Darrell showed participants the best uses of glues, screws, splints and other repair tools, and fixed broken objects brought to the class. Way to go Darrell!

Observations from a Plastic-Free July

Expressing gratitude for change is important.

At Gigantic, we work hard to “get inside the heads” of the audiences we try to reach. How difficult is it to get someone to change behavior, even to be aware of that behavior? I experimented on myself last month, when I joined the #PlasticFreeJuly movement, and tried to avoid buying or accepting anything made of plastic for 31 days.

The first thing I noticed was anxiety, and a tendency to over-compensate. Should I stock up on plastic on June 30 so I could get through the month comfortably? What would I have to give up? Just how uncomfortable is this change going to be?

How can a behavior change specialist address her own fears of change and scarcity?

The Thrill of Failure

My first day was a failure, but also a tremendous success. I went out to lunch and ordered a cocktail (it’s OK, it was a Saturday!) The drink came with a straw – I had forgotten to ask for no straw. Disaster in the first few hours of the experiment! I posted about my personal failure to Facebook and Twitter, tagging the restaurant. I was amazed to see several supportive comments, even from “non-green” people with whom I had not interacted in years, saying they, too, were sick of plastic and that I should keep trying. Then, lo and behold, the restaurant responded to me via Facebook, saying that they, too, loved this particular cocktail and from now on would serve it without a straw. Victory! I took away from this experience that it can be more effective to post about one’s own weakness, to acknowledge error, rather than trying to be a brave and mighty eco-hero.

Challenges kept on coming throughout the month. In some cases there were joyous substitutions – I discovered that bread sliced at the bakery and wrapped in paper did just fine in the freezer, so breakfast was set.

Plastic = Convenience

As the month wore on, I realized that plastic equals convenience, and that I had to re-align my idea of what was convenient. Yes, it takes longer to bring your own containers and use the bulk bins of the market. It takes more effort to go to the cheese shop where the owner was happy to wrap my slices in paper – not an option at the supermarket. On the flip side, I had wonderful conversations with folks behind the counter; some were bemused by my requests, some were delighted. But this was an opportunity to connect with people in my neighborhood whom I had, frankly, barely noticed before. How to translate this greater feeling of community to our work?

When To Give Up

In some cases, going plastic-free meant going without. Tortillas and potato chips, indeed all salty junk food, were not an option, unless ordered in a restaurant. I had to cheat in a couple of instances, choosing less plastic over no plastic for things like toothpaste and olive oil. Luckily I don’t take a lot of medicines, but when I ran out of Vitamin D…I caved and bought more in a plastic bottle. I noticed the feeling of guilt and this time I did not share my “failure.”

It’s August now, and I have relented a bit, but the plastic-free exercise has stuck with me. The main thing I took away from July was a heightened awareness of plastic’s never ending presence in our lives. Entire aisles of the supermarket were off limits – which after a while felt quite restful. Connecting this ubiquity with the fact that of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic ever made, 6.3 billion metric tons have become plastic waste, with no end in sight. After this experiment, I am reminded as we plan campaigns that in many cases we are asking people to change, to give up something, to be inconvenienced. These are big asks. While these changes seem essential and even joyful to those of us in the environmental field, I believe it is essential to integrate humility and understanding into our campaigns, so that people feel understood and supported as we travel together on this journey to more sustainable living.

Using the ‘F’ Word: How Framing Can Motivate Behavior Change

Can we re-frame enviro issues to make them palatable?

A constant challenge in environmental outreach is how to portray an issue in a way that reaches people with varied worldviews. Neuroscientist George Lakoff and the concept of framing has been much in the political news lately, as opposing sides try to create impressions (also known as bias) in their listeners’ minds. Lakoff notes that all communication has frames:

“The elements of the Communication Frame include: A message, an audience, a messenger, a medium, images, a context, and especially, higher-level moral and conceptual frames.”

We know that facts alone don’t change behavior; to succeed, a message needs that emotional element that reaches the deeper parts of our brain. How can environmental outreach frame important issues in a way that reaches, convinces, and persists to make long-term positive change in behavior?

Lakoff gives one example in his blog, suggesting that instead of talking about environmental regulations, we reframe laws as environmental protections.

Framing a concept like food waste should be simple – no one likes “waste,” right?
The message of buying only what you need, using leftovers, and composting what is left is quite straightforward, but we have a long way to go to tackle the huge amount of food that is wasted. Two recent examples show how framing the issue, while acknowledging the facts, can show success.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
Activist Selina Juul has worked for years on a multi-touch approach to reducing food waste in her adopted country of Denmark. She recognized that change had to come from all sides: business, government and, most of all, consumers. In this video, she reframes food waste as disrespectful to nature, farmers and to the individual’s own time and money.

 

Ugly? No, Beautiful!
2 "ugly" tomatoes kissingA more local success story focuses on our friend and colleague Jordan Figueiredo. Jordan’s Ugly Fruit and Veg campaign aims to reframe frequently wasted, less than perfect produce with humor and heart, in order to make what had been rejected, acceptable and even coveted.

Jordan couches his multi-touch campaign work as Funactivism, which counters the view some hold of activists as overly serious or shrill. Jordan successfully uses many of the tools of activism and behavior change: touting simple individual steps, assurance that individual actions make a difference, use of pledges and norming, combined with a top-down approach to companies. He has used charming photos spread via social media to challenge people to change their attitudes about what is “ugly,” reframing ugly fruit and vegetables, and by extension, reframing our view of what is beautiful.

Choosing the most effective way to frame an issue takes research, patience and testing. Most of all, it takes creativity and always remembering that change comes from within, and people act because of what they feel even more than because of what they think.

How will you frame your next campaign?

Who Are You Talking To? Choosing a Strategy for Social Media Channels

sample tweet from @giganticideas

Are you planning an environmental outreach campaign that includes social media? I hope so! As you probably know, social media is a great way to spread the word about your organization’s activities and to encourage public participation. But “social media” is not a single, uniform bucket. Just as you would plan a different print ad for a publication that reaches high school students than for one that focuses on businesses, so your posts in social media should be guided by who you are trying to reach and why.

How to get started with a channel-specific strategy?

To start, try creating a mission statement for each channel. The mission statements should be based on your organizational goals and the audience you are most likely to reach with each channel. For example, are you trying to reach young people? Snapchat (60% of Snapchat users are under 25) is a good channel to consider. If you’re trying to reach Baby Boomers or businesses, not so much.

Here are some sample mission statements by channel:

We will use Twitter to raise our profile with influencers in the U.S. and beyond.
We will use Facebook to keep our fans updated and informed about our organization’s activities and to provide calls to action to the public.
We will use Instagram to promote the joy of a waste-free lifestyle with the local community.
Our blog provides detail and a personal voice on our organization’s issues and activities for those who already know about us.

Next, tailor your content by channel. Some organizations, looking to save time, make all of their Facebook posts automatically post to Twitter. This may undermine your efforts when your audience and mission  are different for each channel.

This doesn’t mean you should not cross-post the same topic in different channels. But it is a good idea to structure the content for your target audience: customize the language and images to achieve your mission.

Measure, Measure, Measure

How do you know if your channel strategy is working? Measure the results and compare your progress to your goals. For instance, your Twitter feed may be focused on reaching influencers. You can then evaluate your Twitter efforts by the number of key influencers who follow or retweet you. (In other words, it may be that the quality of your followers is more important than the number of them.) If your goal is to raise awareness of an issue, then the metric of reach/impressions is key. If your goal is to have users respond to a call to action, you will want to look at both click-through rate and number of clicks.

There is so much more to say about social media strategy, but starting with a channel mission statement is a useful guide when you are creating and customizing your communications. Happy posting!

Gigantic Idea Studio Hosts NewCo Oakland Session

Last Thursday, October 8, we opened our Gigantic doors to host a diverse group of visitors interested in learning more about us and our work as part of the NewCo Festival. NewCo engages companies with an innovative mission to share their vision and ideas with festival attendees. This year, the event expanded from San Francisco to include Oakland for the first time, and we are so proud to have been selected to participate as a host company. Host businesses include small, specialized groups like us, along with big players like Twitter, Pandora, Uber, and everything in between. NewCo is an inspiring event, and a great way to share ideas across business disciplines, as our attendees were from well-known tech companies, a university, an online retailer and more.

Surprisingly, preparing this presentation became a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. I realized the history of Gigantic’s founding and early development is intertwined with the advent of recycling, the tipping  point of green as mainstream, and the rise of social science research on how to change behaviors related to environment and sustainability—and this made a cool story. It was great to meet people interested in taking the latest ideas and techniques back to their workplaces to inspire change. Here is the presentation:

Enlivening Outreach: 5 Techniques for Creating Vivid Communication

This post is the third in a three-part series summarizing our presentation on messaging at this year’s California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) conference: “Not Just the Facts, Ma’am: Getting Your Message to Matter.” 


At this point in the story you now know the power of emotional appeal and storytelling. Now it’s time to add another element to the mix: vivid communication.

By vivid communication, we mean communication that forms distinct and striking mental images.  Vivid communication works because it gets attention and aids recall. Without attention, there is no recall. Without recall, there is no action.

Consider these five techniques to incorporate vivid communication to your projects.

1) Make the Invisible, Visible.
Vivid1

Take a look at this ad campaign from Georgia’s Clean Air Program. This is a clever way to depict the positive impact of public transit and carpool options on Atlanta’s freeways.

 2) Relate to what people know.

Vivid3

PG&E learned how to weave vivid communications into scripts. PG&E noticed when they sent auditors to visit homeowners to talk about weather stripping, caulking and attic insulation alone – they did not see homeowners take action to correct issues.

However, once auditors were trained to incorporate vivid communication into their discussions with homeowners, they noticed a significant increase in repairs being made. For example, if an auditor found a lack of insulation in the attic they would say “We call that a ‘naked attic’ – it’s as if your home is facing winter not just without a coat, but without any clothing at all.

3) Illustrate your data.

Vivid2

Yes, facts are important! However, facts with visuals can really get your point across. It’s one thing to say a glacier receded eight miles in 100 years and another eight miles in the last 10 years; we hit another level of comprehension when those facts are illustrated visually.

4) Create an infographic.

Vivid4

This technique is perfect for grabbing someone’s attention and keeping it.

5) Engage the senses.

Vivid5

We created a three-cart game for Oakland Recycles to promote composting and recycling behaviors. The game begins with a noisy and attention-getting prize wheel. The prize wheel lands on a photo of a common discard and the player must find the game piece and walk over and determine which is the proper cart to use. The booth team coaches players as needed and we encourage them to look for clues under the lids. The player is engaged kinetically by taking the item, recognizing what it is and physically placing it in the right cart. This aids recall when they are back home and encountering the same item.

Remember…

No matter the budget dollars behind your campaign, you can weave vivid communications into all your existing outreach efforts including newsletters, bill inserts, presentations, social media posts, event tabling and more! You can change the script, add imagery feature community members, even add a game or activity.

The complete CRRA presentation can be viewed here.

Once More, with Feeling: Incorporating Emotion in Environmental Outreach

This post is the first in a three-part series summarizing our presentation on messaging at this year’s California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) conference: “Not Just the Facts, Ma’am: Getting Your Message to Matter.” 

sitting brain
People are not just brains on a chair – they respond to emotional appeal
Environmental outreach depends on getting the facts about pollution, recycling, and other eco-challenges to the public in order to encourage more sustainable behaviors. But over and over, we see that facts alone don’t change public behavior. We have to make our messages matter and be memorable. To do this, we recommend three key strategies.
Our first strategy: appeal to the whole person by using emotion. People are not just brains sitting on a chair, motivated by facts and data. Getting people to laugh, cry, sigh or shake their heads in wonder or disgust is what makes a message stick. Businesses have known this for ages. Think about it: Coca-Cola doesn’t focus on telling you exactly what’s in their bottles of acidic sugar water. No! They work to associate their product with emotions of joy, happiness, or belonging, with slogans like “Share a Coke and a Smile” or “Coke Adds Life” or…well, you get the picture.
Emotional appeals do not have to be shocking to work. When we need to convince others to act, it is an invitation to display passion, instill a sense of immediacy or threat, or to invite people to be part of something…there are many emotional appeals to choose from.  See examples of emotional appeals in videos, display ads, and more, in the complete presentation, below.
So the next time you are planning an outreach campaign, consider how to include an emotional appeal. Far from being fluffy or silly, that emotional appeal will make your message more likely to stick.
The complete CRRA presentation can be viewed here.

Have You Heard? Word of Mouth Empowers Green Behavior Change

2 women chatting over a fence
Good, old-fashioned word of mouth

A recent survey by the Consumer Electronics Association has some fairly depressing statistics (for example, 18 percent of consumers say they discarded electronics devices in the trash during the last year, a six point increase from 2012), but another result caught our eye: according to the survey, “nearly half of consumers (42 percent) first learned how to recycle their old devices by word of mouth from friends, family or co-workers.”

Surprising? Not at all. Study after study shows the importance of friends, family and co-workers on influencing all kinds of behavior. Nielsen’s 2013 survey of trust in advertising channels shows that 84% of respondents say word of mouth from family and friends was the most trustworthy form of persuasion.  For those of us involved in green behavior change, this is good news, since we usually don’t have the budget for Coca-Cola-style mass media campaigns. However, word of mouth still needs to be made simple in order to get your ideas to spread.

So how to design campaigns that enhance the power of friends and family?

To enable word of mouth, we need to reach people, give them the information they need in an appealing, trustworthy and shareable form, and help them to feel that their sharing will be appreciated. A writer for Forbes describes this as the three E’s: Engage, Equip and Empower.

Of course, word of mouth alone cannot create behavior change, but it can be an important tool in a multi-touch campaign. Some questions to ask while designing our environmental behavior change campaigns include:

Are we being clear? Are we using terms that make sense to our audience? As we’ve seen in our research, it’s not a good idea to make assumptions about what people know about waste or water quality.

Are we providing the tools that people need to spread the word? People will be more likely to spread the word if they are equipped with catchy facts, a story, or shareable content.  Is there such a thing as too many facts and data? For spreading messages, the answer is yes.

Have we asked for help?  So simple, but so frequently overlooked. Just by saying “Let your neighbors know …” or “Please Retweet or Share,” your messages are more likely to be spread. Thanking people afterwards is even more powerful.

As we plan for new behavior change campaigns in 2015, the Gigantic team will be focused on fostering the thousands of individual conversations, both off and online, that will move us closer to a sustainable world.  Let’s spread the word!

Social Media for Environmental Outreach: 6 Commandments and a Golden Rule

goldenrule_e0b6a47365d17e9424c830816a7e70c3Agencies focused on green behavior change — such as recycling, energy use, and water conservation — have a lot on their plates. Tackling the ravenous, always-open maw of social media can seem a daunting task to add to that already bulging to-do list. But if your goal is to reach people at a time and place where they’re likely to be receptive, social media merits a prominent place on that list of tasks.

Here are six commandments that may help guide your agency’s social media tactics and conserve time and money:

Commandment #1—Thou Shalt Not Attempt To Be All Things To All People.  You may think that you need a presence on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Vine and Tumblr (wait, what about Reddit? Google+?), but that is nearly impossible with limited time and resources. It’s also unnecessary. Pick one or two channels, based on where your target audience is, and where chances are good they will be open to messaging about waste, recycling, energy, etc. Got lots of great visuals of re-use projects for the home? Consider a Pinterest account. Have a grants program aimed at helping local businesses streamline operations? Look to LinkedIn and Twitter. Study each channel’s advantages and culture, and pick the best fit for your overall outreach goals. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself reaching that choir and making your campaigns sing.

Commandment #2—Thou Shalt Not Be Boring. Effective social media is a many-way street. Social media audiences, by definition, expect the channel to be interactive and responsive.  Treating it like a bulletin board (“Here’s our new program”; “Do what we say”) will eventually cause your audience to tune you out. This leads us to …

Commandment #3—Thou Shalt Provide Relevant, Interesting Content. Content marketing is king these days, and that quirky infographic, eye-catching image or catchy video is key to capturing the eye of the people you most want to reach. Stick to your core subjects but find an angle that makes those subjects matter to those who matter to you. This leads us to:

Commandment #4Thou Shalt Be Strategic. Having written social media guidelines will streamline your work and allow tasks to be shared or passed on without wheel re-invention. Guidelines should include topics, tone, type and frequency of posts, all the while referring back to your overall outreach goals. This will save time and ensure you present a consistent public face.

Commandment #5Thou Shalt Listen Intently … And Respond. Social media is not about you; it’s about what other people are saying about you and your programs. Use Google Alerts or other tools to listen in on what folks are saying about your issue, good and bad. Find the influencers in your field and build relationships over social media before you ask them for any favors. And if someone is kind enough to praise your program or ask a question, a prompt response demonstrates that your agency listens and cares.

Commandment #6Thou Shalt be Flexible. As with any marketing tactic, evaluation and measurement are essential. If a social media channel is not working (and you’ve given it the old college try), modify your approach. A drop-off in engagement could be an early sign that your message, channel or both aren’t working. The only certainty in the world of social media is that it moves fast, fast, fast. So take a gulp of coffee and look at your analytics (web metrics, Facebook Insights, YouTube views, etc.) with a critical eye.

Lastly, the Golden Rule. No, not a new one. The Golden Rule you already know. “Do unto others …” works in social media as in life. Take the time to support relevant causes, applaud others’ efforts, respond to comments and thank your supporters. Agencies that take the time to participate fully in this amazing global phenomenon will stand out and enjoy remarkable returns.

 

Using Graphic Design to Win Hearts and Minds: Is it Possible for Government?

Man with mobile phone.According to the U.S. government’s own definition, graphic designers “create visual concepts, by hand or using computer software, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers.”

But how often do government communications actually inspire or captivate?

Our clients often say they want to “educate” or “inform” residents about their program. But in behavior change, we know that merely providing information does not guarantee action. We know we need to inspire and persuade — not just inform — and design plays a big role in meeting this challenge.

That said, we acknowledge there’s a time and place for just providing information, such as rate increases or service changes. In these cases, direct mail of a simple letter in an official envelope is the best way to cut through the clutter.

But when it comes to increasing participation in programs — from recycling and composting to planting trees — government should give creativity free rein. Here government agencies need to establish an emotional connection with the audience to overcome old habits, win over hearts and minds, and inspire change.

But wait, you say, “we need to look like we’re being responsible with taxpayer [or ratepayer] money, so we can’t do anything flashy or frivolous.” At Gigantic, we firmly believe there is a creative solution that is both engaging and appropriate, for every type of environmental campaign funded by public agencies. In fact, we’d argue that you could be wasting taxpayer money by not making it captivating. If no one notices your outreach, there’s no point in doing it.

And, we’d argue that a human-centered, thought provoking and positive concept — presented through a clutter-free design with professional imagery — has the best chance of attracting fans to your programs.

Here’s an example of one of our latest projects, for a government workplace recycling program. The project included both instructional and inspirational pieces, which were displayed separately to increase their impact. Here is one of the inspirational pieces.

food scrap recycling

Here’s another example, done for the Pentagon, which uses an emotional connection tailored specifically to the men and women charged with the security of the nation:

SCS_Pentagon1

And this campaign, done by another advertising firm for StopWaste, a public agency, is a great example of using humor to engage viewers:

122151292008cup

Wouldn’t you say these examples above have a better chance of increasing participation than a sign, like the one below, that merely tells us what to do without explaining why?

gaw

We know it’s not always easy to be captivating, but given the myriad messages that people are bombarded with every day, it’s more important than ever for government communications about environmental programs to offer more than just instruction. Government communications should include vibrant, contemporary images and catchy concepts to increase the receptivity of the message and therefore, the effectiveness of the outreach.

PageLines