Nuts & Bolts: Case Study
Challenge: Boost awareness of a cause largely overlooked in the developed world and reach new donors.
Solution: Leverage social marketing forums.
Results: More than 77,000 Web hits since the campaign began in January 2007.
The average user of Second Life, a Web-based virtual world in which residents (represented by animated “avatars”) interact with their surroundings and each other, is 33 years old, American or European, technologically savvy with a relatively high income. Not exactly the type of person you would expect to relate to the challenge of finding clean water. But, thanks to the work of the nonprofit Global Water Foundation (GWF) and communications specialists, French|West|Vaughan (FWV), that may be changing.
Through social marketing and media outreach, these organizations are putting a spotlight on the water issues that plague developing communities around the world. Their goal is to attract attention—not to mention, donations of time and dollars—from those best positioned to make a difference: young, dynamic consumers who are “interested in world issues and enthusiastic about becoming involved and active,” says Chris Shigas, FWV’s vice president.
The Global Water Foundation was founded last year by Johan Kriek, two-time Australian Open champion and defending Wimbledon senior doubles champion, and Minnie Hildebrand, a former water utility executive. Kriek was inspired to act after learning at the 2005 World Economic Forum on Africa how pollution and inadequate sanitation affect poor communities and, in particular, children.
Since 2006, the FWV has worked with the GWF, during which time they launched Global Water Foundation MySpace and Facebook pages with celebrity athlete “friends” and unique video content on YouTube.com. The centerpiece of their social marketing campaign, however, was the February 2007 opening of a “Virtual Education Center” on Second Life, a Web-based community boasting more than 6 million registered users.
The Virtual Education Center features streaming video and audio supporting the cause, as well as photographs showing GWF’s work. The latter can be viewed from outside the building through large windows to attract virtual pedestrians. Visitors can click on GWF’s Web site at www.globalwaterfoundation.org and pick up free virtual “GWF” t-shirts so their Second Life characters can spread the word about the cause.