Last week, in partnership with changents.com, Timberland released “Earthkeepers Hero ‘Mission Possible,'” furthering the company’s vision to develop Facebook applications that blur the line between virtual and real-world eco-action in order to catalyze an environmental movement of “do-ers” under the banner of Timberland Earthkeepers. Many brands, non-profits and social activism campaigns have begun to harness the power of the web in creating experiences designed to drive real life behavior, consciousness and goodwill. And the “game” element helps create memorable engagements that promote adoption of causes and lifestyle integration.
Akoha is another good example of this, giving players points for a variety of social change-related activities that they complete in the real world.
But the question becomes are games like these fads, fueled by initial hype, or do they have the potential to create sustainable change and elevate consumer consciousness of important social and environmental issues?
Combining vivid design and interactivity, Earthkeepers Hero game players are tasked to make their way into the Earthkeeper Hero Hall of Fame by answering challenging eco-questions that unlock “Earthkeeping missions” – from zany urban-themes to the exotic to the high octane. Players level-up by grabbing skills and equipment and recruiting their Facebook friends to become “Backers” on Earthkeeping missions. Using Facebook as a gateway to Timberland’s Earthkeeping movement, players will discover and interact with real-world Earthkeeper Heroes who provide game clues that help players get to “mission accomplished.”
Obviously, the goal is to create camaraderie around these important earth saving missions, help with knowledge retention of eco-issues and tap into the collective force of social network users in driving viral buzz and participation. After less than a week, the game already boasts over 1,100 players, and there are 30+ plus fans with numbers continuing to grow quickly each day the game is out there. So, it has definitely taken root in the social space, with “agents” taking on virtual missions and recruiting friends to join in. But what’s critical for the long-term success of an initiative like this is ensuring that users transfer their “hero” training to championing those environmental practices in their own lives. As such, the key is to appeal to users’ lifestyles with practical activities they can put into action, and keeping rewards eco-aligned vs. unrelated promotional incentives.
It will be interesting to see how this initiative continues to unfold, and if real world encounters will mirror cyber missions completed in the game environment. But above all, it highlights a new trend for eco-minded brands employing innovative tactics that evoke and compel consumers to action over stale, static, one-dimensional campaigns. It also underscores the viability of using social media to connect consumers to environmental issues, and foster the halo effects of consciousness for the brand delivering it. So, efforts like these not only reach today’s conscious consumer, but cultivate them. . . one mission at a time.