Dissecting the Greenpeace Campaign Formula

By December 14, 2015 Strategy No Comments

Here at Agent, the strategy team have been working on some exciting campaigns to be launched in the New Year. By working on these, I have started to analyse other campaigns I come into contact with, through a critical eye.

As I take an interest in sustainability, I have been following Greenpeace’s awareness-raising campaigns over the past 18 months. For instance, a campaign run last summer successfully raised public awareness of and eventually broke up the Lego – Shell partnership. Interestingly their latest campaign was slightly closer to home (Mann Island, Liverpool to be precise) at the headquarters of fish company John West. This time Greenpeace wasn’t very impressed that 98% of John West’s tuna is being caught using unsustainable methods, despite pledging that 100% of its tuna would be sustainable by 2016.

Designed to be short-lived, but have a big enough impact to influence change, Greenpeace appears to have created a campaign formula that I believe we can learn from…

Part 1 – The Big Bang

Possibly the most important part of the strategy is the big initial hit. Here the organisation aims to create a high impact stunt using some form of large prop and celebrity involvement. For example, when exposing Shell’s offshore drilling in the arctic, the organisation parked a bus-sized polar bear outside Shell’s HQ in London, with Emma Thompson joining the week-long protest.

This initial stunt has been proven to generate exposure within the national and international media, including: BBC News, The Guardian and The Telegraph. The more exposure the merrier, as it will not only lead to greater reach, but it will also help to build an army of online and offline activists. The organisation also takes a proactive stance to achieve this, generating visually engaging content, to move the campaign online and stimulate the second attack.

Part 2 – The Second Attack

Greenpeace are more than adept at creating engaging content that mobilises the masses. A great example is the ‘Everything is NOT awesome’ video, which played a large part in the Lego – Shell campaign. Both amusing and impactful, the brilliant film clearly resonated with people globally, as it has been viewed 7.5 million times.

Call to actions are also added, to influence a snowball effect of global digital activism. For instance, in the Lego-Shell campaign viewers were encouraged to email Lego, asking them “to end their inappropriate deal with Shell.” This worked – over one million people worldwide did so, piling the pressure on Lego’s CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp.

Part 3 – The Critical Mass

At this point in their process, Greenpeace have successfully engaged the media and the public, and can rely on a steady stream of new stories, social media conversation and user-generated content. Now, it’s all about maintaining momentum until the offending organisation(s) relents.

When (if) the organisation(s) relent, Greenpeace organises the victory parade. This often involves recognising the role of the campaign’s supporters, through key statements like “This is your victory” and “We did it!” This is important, as it reinforces the power of the collective, helping the organisation to form strong bonds with those engaged in the campaign and preparing them for future battles.

So there it is, Greenpeace’s approach to raising awareness, engaging the public and uniting them against a common enemy. My only fear is that the more they use this approach, the less potent it may become. Only time will tell whether the campaign against John West will also lead to positive change, but I am looking forward to finding out.

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