From increasing sustainability in NBC Universal’s operations to raising awareness of environmental issues, NBC Universal’s Green Is Universal initiative is all about getting people to take action to help the environment, however small those actions might be. And mobile has become a big part of that strategy.

I recently talked with Nicole Guerrieri and Isabelle Kirkham-Lewitt from NBC Universal about Green Is Universal’s mobile initiatives.

How did Green Is Universal initially get into mobile?

Nicole: We started with mobile with our first Green Week in 2007. For that we set up a mobile subscription list. It was text GREEN to 46833 and then users could get green tips on the go from us during our big promotional week. That was the start of it. [Mobile was] where everyone already was – texting and communicating with their friends and being online. It was sort of new for us, but it was a good extension because it was about making these really small changes and communicating via text is short and sweet.

Isabelle: Green Is Universal’s whole mantra is about that easy, quick thing that you can do to help the environment… When we started in 2007, people were always [texting], so it was this really easy way for us to tap into something that people were doing already and provide them with a way to help the environment.
From texting to apps, how has your strategy evolved? And what has been one of your biggest successes?

Nicole: Along the way we saw changes in people interacting on the web – how their mobile behavior was changing. So we created a mobile-optimized version of our site. And then the iPhone really blew up and apps were really big, so we started creating apps for people to interact with. We have two iPhone apps so far: iBloom was our first, [which we launched] in April 2009. iShop Green launched a year later in April 2010. And this year we’re about to release [a mobile web app] called One Small Act… I think the culmination of our learning came in the form of Text for Trees, which is a program that is all around mobile and social. One single action – whether it be text the word TREE or share with friends via Twitter or Facebook – plants a tree… I would say that Text for Trees was probably our biggest mobile success story. It was a program that was developed in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation. Our first year was 2009, [when it] kicked off during our NBC Rockefeller tree lighting broadcast and then was online during the month of December. We saw a jump in our number of texts after we did a call to action on air during the tree lighting… We reached a million trees [planted] in just under three days. That was our ultimate goal.

Isabelle: Something that’s really good about Text for Trees is that during our green-themed weeks throughout the year there’s a big call to action on air and there’s green programming that’s being integrated into all of our shows. So you have talent in our PSAs speaking to green, you have a lot more nuanced integrations in 30 Rock and things like that. In the past this call to action on air has fed really nicely to a quick action or a quick text back. People are a lot more social when they’re watching TV and so, especially around green when we have these weeks that are very heavily integrated on air, Text for Trees has responded really well because people are already on their phones when they’re watching TV and there’s a really good feedback relationship between the two. I think this is definitely a program that we’re going to continue to grow and evolve.

What are some of Green Is Universal’s future plans?

Nicole: iBloom has definitely been – to date – our most successful app. And so we want to keep those users engaged and that’s why we do updates throughout the year. We’ll get an update for Earth Week as well so people can look out for a new flower within the app… iShop Green is going to have an update [as well]. We’re adding a new feature called Eco Concierge in partnership with Greenopia… People in any city in the US [can] ask green-specific questions… [For example] I can find out where the closest farmer’s market is or where the closest organic bakery is. I can ask the Eco Concierge and get the answer… This Earth Week is a great example of [integrating mobile strategy into our campaign]. We’re going to launch One Small Act as the longtail extension of what we’re doing online.

Tell me more about One Small Act.

Nicole: One Small Act is powered by Practically Green. It’s really around tracking. It’s taking this whole theme within apps right now of tracking your daily actions – like MyRunKeeper and LoseIt that are all about keeping track of stuff on mobile – and taking it to green lifestyle actions. So you can create these goals that you want to achieve. You can say, “I want to make sure that I turn out the lights every time I leave a room or use reusable bags.” I set my goals and then I come back and mark when I’ve achieved that… There’s a gaming twist to it, too. You can earn badges along the way. You’re earning points and those points… are equivalent to carbon savings, water savings, energy savings. It’s a great tool that helps people keep track of their green actions… We’re excited about it.

You have Earth Week in April and Green Week in November. Do you all have a different approach into what you do in the spring versus fall?

Nicole: We definitely consider our approach based on time of year. iBloom in the spring. Text for Trees around the tree lighting. I think what’s great about One Small Act [is] whatever program we’re doing, we can activate the users to makes small changes. It really speaks to our overall brand messaging and it’s applicable all throughout the year.

Isabelle: Mobile is our way to extend behavior beyond those weeks because Green Is Universal is our year-round initiative. So these provide a longtail, a place for people to engage outside of Earth Week [or Green Week].

You mentioned several corporate partnerships. How did you decide to link up with some of these companies?

Nicole: With iShop Green and Greenopia, I’ve known Greenopia since about 2009. We met them through Green Is Universal and I really respect their ratings system. They do a lot of vetting on retailers and products and their website is full of information about how they actually get to their ratings. They had a version of their site as a mobile app… and I knew that I wanted to create iShop Green as an extension of our brand because it taps into the local scene – helping people find places in their area to go green as well as find green products. As a green person, that’s something I’m interested in. And then in terms of Practically Green the same thing – we met them through another initiative and really respected the engine of their website. It’s all about taking actions. They’ve got science behind the point system. We wanted to partner with the best in the business… they provide the back-end, the science, and we’re able to provide the entertainment and distribution value.

Isabelle: As an entertainment company people come to us to be entertained and our talent’s a big draw. That’s why I think it’s so successful during Earth Week, for example. We’re partnering with other companies that have the clout behind these issues… they provide the [legitimacy]. They have legitimate green foundations and we support those and we’re about raising awareness about the environment and how the audience can be more green. Our messaging is “what are the small things?” You can turn off the light. You can power down your computer. Our messaging has to be lighter, but it becomes more real when you realize, for example with One Small Act, what does turning off your light actually do? [What’s the] impact to your carbon imprint? And those brands really help us with that side of it… So it’s a pretty natural partnership.

How would you sum up your mobile strategy?

Nicole: Overall our mobile strategy is really based around the fact that mobile is where people are. It’s a way for us to communicate the small simple things that people can do easily and directly with folks and it fits in nicely with our overall mantra about it’s the small, easy, practical things you can do to go green.

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