Effective frequency in sustainable messaging

D'Addario Strings
CC BY-NC 2.0 e.r.w.i.n.

In marketing communication, there is what is called the “Advertising Rule of 7.” An old adage of standard marketing, this is in reference to effective frequency, or the number of times it is thought necessary for a consumer to see or hear a message before they take action. Aside from being a lucky number in many cultures and, more significantly, the number of objects an average human mind can hold (plus or minus 2 according to Miller’s Law), this number may seem arbitrary. But in our mission to close the “green-gap” through sustainable messaging, every bit of insight counts.

As I’ve discussed in a previous post about shopper marketing, despite the growing number of people (namely Millenials, currently representing 25% of the U.S. population and estimated to reach $200 billion in annual buying power by 2017) reporting an inclination to patronize companies demonstrating a commitment to sustainability (and pay a premium for it), there is a disparity between those numbers and consumer behavior. Can employing the concept of effective frequency help to close this values-action gap?

At TerraCycle, we aim to eliminate the idea of waste by interacting with consumers on many platforms, including e-blasts, brand-sponsored consumer contests, free recycling programs, blog posts like this one, our reality television show Human Resources, social media, and special events like the annual Jersey Fresh Jam and the recent TRASHED art exhibition at Artworks Trenton. We strongly believe that engaging people often and in various ways takes our audience as seriously as we do our mission, and some consumer product manufacturers are applying the concept of effective frequency in their sustainable messaging, and with great impact.

D’Addario, the largest instrument string manufacturer in the world, first cited environmental stewardship as a core value in the 1980s in conjunction with making the sustainable switch from individual PVC plastic pouches to envelopes made out of recycled paper for packaging sets of their strings. Early on, D’Addario made sustainability work for them, lowering costs through the transition to conveyor operation, and appealing to customers by consolidating individual string units to sets of six.

More recently, D’Addario partnered up with my company to create an instrument string recycling program. Aptly called Playback, this initiative allows consumers to recycle any type of string from the bass guitar to the dulcimer, regardless of brand, giving strings another life as new metal alloys and nylon plastic. Significantly, this initiative takes responsibility for product waste, expanding the narrow focus on packaging.

For every .25 lbs of strings collected, musicians and friends of musicians have the opportunity to earn 100 Players Circle loyalty points, which can be used can be used to purchase items in the Players Circle Rewards store or towards a cash donation to the D’Addario Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to providing music education support in areas of need through seed programs, product donations and grants.

Recycling instrument strings to earn money for charity and divert waste from landfills starts with generating awareness that a solution exists. D’Addario’s Recycle and Restring events bring recycling into local music stores across the country, showing communities what sustainability could do for them with a free restringing and exposing them to a more regenerative solution for a difficult-to-recycle item that they may not have been aware of before.

Public figures carry a considerable amount of clout when representing products, services and campaigns, and can have great influence in promoting sustainability. Sponsoring backstage presence of Playback collection boxes at big music festivals like Bonnaroo, WXPN XPoNential Festival, Telluride and the upcoming Lockn’ Festival brands the program with real scene credibility with their target demographic: music lovers.

D’Addario Strings’ multi-platform commitment to earth-friendly practices finds the manufacturing pioneer featured in the book Green Musician's Guide: Sound Ideas for a Sound Planet, designed to provide an informative overview of pressing sustainability issues that directly relate to the music industry.

Generating multiple impressions to achieve maximum impact may increase the likelihood that a person will be influenced into action, as may conveying a message in a dynamic variety of channels. Companies like D’Addario that effectively use these opportunities to expose consumers to sustainable messaging do well for their bottom line, and for the planet.

Tags: Consumerism | Corporate Responsibility | Recycling

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