3 Ways to Promote Sustainability Through Digital Experiences

October 12, 2020

I’ll be the first to admit that the experiential marketing space hasn’t always been the pinnacle of environmentalism. Air travel emissions, elaborate, one-time use sets, wasted food and beverages — even a single pre-pandemic event could impact our environment in startling ways.

The impetus for sustainability has never been stronger. Many people are still quarantining and social distancing, and the planet has felt notable effects, including reduced carbon emissions and clear waterways. Because of this, people are pledging to “flatten the curve” when it comes to climate change. They saw how business as usual affected our planet, and they’re ready to adopt more sustainable measures and strategies in response.

We can see evidence of sincere support for protecting our earth across all demographics, but nowhere is sustainable living more important than among Millennials and Generation Z. And they expect the brands they patronize to do their part, too.

According to PSFK Research, nearly 60% of Generation Zers select brands based on their purpose, values, and mission, and Nielsen discovered that 73% of Millennials will shell out more money for sustainable products and brands. But you can’t simply say you’re environmentally and socially responsible. You have to adopt policies and practices in every aspect of your business, including virtual experiences.

Although in-person strategies like recycling are more difficult to control when creating virtual experiences, there are ways to promote and practice sustainability in a virtual environment. Here are three strategies you can use:

1. Assemble a sustainability squad.

Sustainability isn’t an exercise in independence. For your next virtual event, consider partnering with influencers who mirror your commitment to environmentalism. Because they operate entirely through visual mediums, they’ll be able to help you think cinematically, not theatrically. RXBAR, for instance, used its influencers to provide free workouts for consumers stuck inside during COVID-19. Although workouts aren’t really tied to environmentalism, you could showcase influencer-created tutorial videos that feature your offerings in a sustainable way at your next event.

You can also partner with organizations that support sustainable living. For example, before the pandemic, Cotton Inc.’s denim recycling program teamed up with Caravan Stylist Studio to host a sustainable pop-up shop and clothing donation drive in celebration of America Recycles Day. The Denim Stack Challenge urged consumers to take stock of their wardrobes and recycle their seldom-worn denim. Participants were asked to pile up their old jeans and share the photo on Instagram using the hashtag #DenimStackChallenge.

2. Capitalize on social media.

2019 study by JWT Intelligence found that more than half of Gen Zers believe they’re more creative than previous generations. We can see their creativity manifesting in many ways — but mostly on social media. For example, in 2019, the VSCO girl meme went viral, promoting the use of reusable water bottles (specifically Hydro Flask), metal straws, and sustainability-focused fashion brands like Birkenstock. Leverage this creativity by incorporating Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube interactions into your virtual event.

TikTok, in particular, has boomed during the pandemic. The video app surpassed 2 billion downloads in April and, despite the security controversy, continues to reign supreme as one of the most popular Gen Z social platforms. Consider applying social media platform strategies into your interactions. Chipotle, for instance, is a master of TikTok hashtag challenges (such as #GuacDance or #ChipotleLidFlip). Imitate their success by meshing your brand with a sustainability initiative and creating a catchy hashtag. You can encourage attendee participation and generate valuable buzz by doing so.

3. Show, don’t tell.

Our inclination to ignore problems that feel distant is simply part of the human condition. It’s why many of us have pushed climate change to the backs of our minds for so long. Ignoring the problem is no longer an option, but rattling off stats and figures won’t create eco-warriors or showcase your mission. The tangible nature of experiential marketing makes it a fantastic way to illustrate the impacts of climate change and other ecological crises and inspire action.

Before the pandemic, National Geographic hosted an immersive experience at Disney’s D23 Expo that was designed to bring awareness to its “Planet or Plastic” initiative aimed at reducing consumption of single-use plastic. The activation’s main attraction featured a variety of life-size marine animals that were created by San Francisco Bay Area artists from about 8,400 pieces of reclaimed plastic and steel. Think about creating an experience like this via augmented or virtual reality (like The Met 360 project). You may not be able to bring attendees to the experience, but you can bring the experience to the attendees.

Brands have an obligation to do their part in the fight against climate change and other environmental woes. By promoting and practicing sustainable living through digital experiential marketing, you’ll not only make a real difference, but also generate brand loyalty among younger generations.


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.