Shifting from intellect to emotion.

Through its first two iterations — “Transformation” and “Enjoy It. Recycle It.”, the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association (CBCRA) Recycle Everywhere campaigns built strong momentum towards the organization’s ultimate goal of 75% beverage container recovery in Manitoba. However, as compliance rates ticked upwards, CBCRA’s challenge intensified.

To avoid fatigue and tune-out, the campaign message had to be regularly refreshed. With each annual increase in recovery, CBCRA needed to appeal to an increasingly resistant audience. Recovery rates and post campaign research showed those amendable to recycling behaviour had responded to positive reinforcement. But key audience segments, including younger adults, were still resistant to adopting recycling behaviour; and some audiences, including smaller municipalities, workplaces, and apartment and condo residents lacked the proper infrastructure to follow through.

 

What they told us: Let’s not guilt trip anyone. But…

For several years, CBCRA had maintained that campaigns had to be positive, but as we entered this next phase, the need for a shift was evident. Results showed that though recovery was still increasing, the previous year’s rate had merely inched up at 1%. Other jurisdictions showed similar patterns; recovery rates were levelling off. Invariably, rates would likely regress the following year.

 

If self-reported recycling had matched recovery, our job would have been done.

 

So, CBCRA was open to using personal accountability as a motivator, but wanted the campaign to stop short of guilt tripping audiences — especially since the numbers showed many people were improving their recycling habits.

Audience research helped guide the approach, where a strong desirability bias became evident: there was a significant gap between self-reported recycling (people saying that they recycled everything they could all or most of the time), and our actual recovery rate. In fact, had the self-reported numbers held true for the general population, CBCRA would have exceeded its target 75% recovery threshold and their goal would have been accomplished.

 

What we saw: A way to point out behaviour without pointing fingers.

The gap between self-reported recycling behaviour and actual recovery meant that not only were some audiences not recycling — even amenable audiences were not recycling all they could. This provided us with an opportunity to tell all audiences, including the well intentioned, that a significant proportion of the beverage containers sold in Manitoba still weren’t being recycled.

But the approach required tact. The desire was for people to reflect on their own behaviour without feeling shamed or blamed. Humour would be a disarming tool in the strategic approach, taking the edge off of what could otherwise feel overly corrective.

How Many Were Yours?

The creative approach for the resulting campaign, “How many were yours?” put people in everyday scenarios where recycling infrastructure exists: at the office, at home, in apartments, at school. In each execution, a hero subject comes face to face with all the beverage containers they did not recycle in the past year.

The over-the-top scenarios helped drive home how each container that isn’t recycled adds up over a longer period of time. And, faced with a representation of the sum of their actions, the campaign drove home that recycling ‘most of the time’ still wasn’t enough.

For underperforming audiences, specific tactics helped share specific contextual messages. Creative that featured multi-family or workplace scenarios were geo-targeted to areas with high densities of apartments, condominiums, and offices. Where appropriate, the campaign also encouraged residents and managers to contact CBCRA to get recycling infrastructure for their homes and office spaces.

Results

At a time when data from other jurisdictions suggested we should brace for a plateau or decline in recovery rates, CBCRA defied the trend. In 2016, the organization reported its highest-ever recovery rate — 70%, representing a 7.7% increase over the previous year’s total recovery. The campaign’s strategic approach and creative platform contributed to this success, resulting in an impressive 77% unaided recall of the campaign.

Largest increase in North America – based on 2010-2016 recovery rates.

For the period of 2010-2016, CBCRA reported the largest increase in recovery rate of any jurisdiction in North America: from a 42% baseline, to 70%.

7.7%

increase in total recovery.

70%

recovery rate – highest recovery rate reported to date.

77%

unaided recall.