eBay and ThredUp are two resale brands that naturally align with Earth Day — both are sustainable to the point that they don’t produce any new products. H&M, on the other hand, is a name regularly equated with fast-fashion. A purveyor of the latest fashion trends, the brand historically hasn’t paid much thought to sustainability. In the following case study, we’ll compare and contrast Earth Day influencer marketing campaigns from each brand. All three sell consumer goods but recruit influencers to achieve different ends.
The first ever Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, by 22 million Americans. In the time since the holiday has become a popular day for people everywhere to celebrate the planet’s natural environment.
Why implement Earth Day marketing? Issues like environmental protection and sustainability are increasingly important to Americans. According to Reader’s Digest, in the past 6 months, 1-in-50 adults have exchanged their car for a more fuel-efficient model, like a hybrid, electric, or alternative fuel vehicle. Earth Day presents a unique opportunity for brands of all types to align themselves with the environmental causes consumers care about, or promote the good work they already do to preserve the planet.
Doing good has proven to be incredibly good for business, especially when it comes to attracting younger consumers. 55% of Millennials try to buy products from companies that support causes they care about. To reach today’s socially conscious consumers, brands are paying closer attention to social and environmental causes, and capitalizing on holidays like Earth Day.
Founded in 1995, eBay is one of the world’s most popular resale websites and is best known for facilitating consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer purchases. As of Q4 2017, the multinational corporation maintains 170 million active buyers. Last year alone it generated $9.6 billion in revenue.
eBay is an e-commerce service that gives people a means to sell used items to others instead of throwing them away. On its website, the brand identifies a “circular economy” as one its most important values saying, “Our first transaction was a broken laser pointer. Instead of sitting unused, it was sold to someone who wanted to give it new life.” Tenants like sustainability and recycling are central to Earth Day and simultaneously central to eBay’s DNA. The holiday gives the brand an opportunity to connect with existing customers and reach consumers who share its values but may not have used its services before.
To build on its 2017 success, eBay partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an American environmental nonprofit, to run an Instagram fundraiser and contest leading up to Earth Day. Instagram users were encouraged to donate any amount of money to the NRDC via eBay.com. However, by donating $10 or more users were entered to win a two-person vacation to Montana. By donating $25 a more, users were automatically entered into the contest and received an exclusive Earth Day pin made from recycled materials.
To promote the fundraiser and contest, eBay partnered with over 40 travel, fashion, and lifestyle Instagram influencers, both macro and micro. Each influencer explained the campaign and called on followers to donate to the NRDC.
Fashion blogger Tonya Michelle (@tonyamichelle26) was the largest influencer involved in the campaign, with nearly 700,000 followers. In a singular sponsored Instagram post, she explains the contest to followers and highlights the pin users can receive by wearing the pin in the photo and stating in the caption, “If you give $25 or more, you’ll also get this pin which is 100% made from recycled materials.”
Michelle also attaches the eBay and NRDC campaign to a personal anecdote by saying, “Earth Day is April 22nd & it’s all about getting involved. I recycle by picking up trash when I see it and I also recently switched to paper straws.” By highlighting the small steps she’s taking towards sustainability, Michelle positions donating to the NRDC as a similarly small but effective step her followers can take to help the planet.
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Similar to eBay, ThredUP is a resale website whose business model naturally aligns with an Earth Day marketing campaign. On its website, the brand explicitly states, “We know that shopping second-hand helps the world in some small way, and we’re proud to be a part of that. Being a conscious consumer matters.” Unlike eBay, the site facilitates the buying and selling of second-hand clothing exclusively.
Given the apparel market it operates within, an influencer marketing campaign gives ThredUP access to access to fashion-centric consumers that might also have an interest in the brand’s sustainable practices. An Earth Day marketing campaign specifically gives the brand a chance to emphasize its connection with loyal customers and reach out to potential new customers who align with its values.
In celebration of Earth Day, ThredUP released an exclusive collection of Earth Day t-shirts designed by 12 artists. The unique t-shirt graphics were printed on second-hand t-shirts and sold on ThredUp, with 100% of net proceeds going to the environmental non-profit Cool Effect.
To promote the collection the brand partnered with eight macro-influencers and six micro-influencers. Each posted one sponsored Instagram post showcasing a graphic t-shirt from the collection.
Writer and illustrator Mari Andrew (@bymariandrew) was the third largest influencer involved in the campaign, and one of the 12 artists chosen to create an Earth Day t-shirt graphic. She created one sponsored Instagram post promoting the graphic she created in partnership with ThredUP.
Interestingly, Andrew shared the t-shirt graphic with followers in a style consistent with her Instagram feed. Instead of showcasing a photo of herself wearing the t-shirt, like many of the influencers involved in the campaign, she offers a photo of the graphic exclusively. This choice adheres to her tendency to use her Instagram page predominantly to share her pictures of her illustrations. In doing so, she ensures the ThredUp sponsored content aligns with the content her audience has come to expect.
On a deeper level, the t-shirt graphic Andrew designed matches the illustration style she is famous for. Her audience comes to her Instagram page to enjoy her illustrations, and thus is likely to be interested in purchasing a t-shirt adorned with her art. By partnering with Andrew, ThredUP gains access to a subset of consumers likely to make a purchase. Additionally, the brand can also reach a whole new subset of potential customers — Those who appreciate art and design, but may not have bought from ThredUP before.
H&M is one of the most successful fast-fashion brands in the world. Founded in 1947, the brand has upwards of 4,700 stores worldwide and last year generated more than $72 billion in revenue. Unlike ThredUP and eBay — two brands that have inherently sustainable business models — H&M is a fast-fashion clothing retailer that hasn’t been traditionally viewed as serving the environment.
The brand faces an entirely different subset of challenges in implementing an influencer marketing campaign for Earth Day. ThredUp and eBay can use Earth Day to reinforce their images in the public imagination. Conversely, H&M can leverage the holiday to reposition itself as a brand that is both environmentally conscious and sustainable.
Within the past year, H&M has received significant press for its increasing emphasis on sustainability, with coverage from Forbes, The Observer, The Huffington Post, and more. The brand’s 2017 Annual Report states, “Our goal is for 100 percent of all the cotton used in our ranges to come from more sustainable sources by 2020,” and reports that during 2017 59% of its cotton was organic and recycled.
To promote its increasingly sustainable ways, the brand announced the launch of a new clothing line made from sustainable and recyclable materials in conjunction with Earth Day. To promote the clothing line H&M partnered with three influencers, one macro and three micro to create sponsored content on Instagram.
American actress, model, and daughter of the late Michael Jackson, Paris Jackson (@parisjackson) was the largest influencer involved in the campaign. As a fashionable person in her early twenties, Jackson is well equipped to reach a demographic likely interested in purchasing H&M clothes — Those that are interested in fashion but unlikely to afford luxury apparel and accessories.
Jackson posted one sponsored multi-image Instagram post of herself wearing clothing items from H&M’s new sustainable line. She connects the collection to Earth Day in saying, “Earth Day is in 4 days!! Are you counting down?? H&M is.”
She also highlights H&M’s social good practices in saying, “They’re making an effort with their new collection made from sustainable and recyclable materials,” a point that is highly advantageous to the brand. Studies have found that Gen Z (the generation Jackson is a member of) is more aware of social issues than prior generations, and prefers brands that take a stance on issues they care about. 60% say they would support brands with a firm stance on issues like equality.
By launching a clothing line made from sustainable and recycled material H&M is taking a clear stance on environmental issues. Jackson, in turn, serves as a great megaphone to project this fact to an enormous audience, most likely predominantly Gen Z members, who are likely to care about and respond to H&M’s clear environmental stance.
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