Experiences matter for every activation, especially when it comes to the nonprofit world. Memorable moments are what give us inspiration to move forward, help out the community, and become a part of something meaningful. Recently, STAR worked with Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness to create an activation for the coveted Minnesota State Fair experience so attendees could talk shop about Minnesota's valued wilderness (education is always key).We were lucky enough to chat with Pete Marshall, the Communications Director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness to fully understand how their team enhances the brand experience in the experiential marketing space of the Minnesota State Fair and elsewhere. Read the insightful interview below.
At Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, one of your most important goals is to create an immersive experience for your audience. Can you explain how you’re working to accomplish those goals?
Pete: As an organization, we’ve been around for over 40 years. I’m proud to work for a group that did so much to protect the Boundary Waters and to get legislation passed that made it into the wilderness it is today. Broadly put, we are an advocacy group, an environmental nonprofit dedicated to protecting, restoring and preserving the Boundary Waters and Quetico Superior Wilderness. Understandably, not everyone is attracted to advocacy work. Or, they aren’t aware of the dangers of copper-sulfide mining, don’t know about the importance of giving underserved kids the opportunity to experience the BWCA, or restoring campsites and trails (which are issues we deal with). To introduce people to these issues and our work, we start with something we love: The Boundary Waters. We want to remind people of how special this place is and why it’s worth fighting for. This is where we want to connect with people.
Tell us about your activation at the Minnesota State Fair!
Pete: The big challenge at the State Fair is that you need to stand out! After all, you’re competing with buckets of freshly baked cookies, fried pickles and butter sculptures. So, amid all the delicious food, we figured the best way to stand out at the State Fair would be to create a space that resembled a typical camp scene in the Boundary Waters. We wanted to create an inviting atmosphere (no, we did not include mosquitoes, so it wasn’t a truly “authentic” experience).
To do this, we knew we had to do two things: Have over sized, immersive graphics (thank you STAR) so people could feel surrounded by the wilderness, and two, we wanted to have a camp scene with a tent, a canoe, camp chairs and maps.
How crucial do you think it is for brands (nonprofits especially) to be integrating eco-friendly messaging into their communication?
Pete: Huge. There are millions of reasons why, and obviously, I can’t go into all of them. Climate change, overuse of resources, protecting the natural world, these are the issues of our age. Brands and organizations can’t escape these issues or wish them away. On a fundamental level, brands need to integrate these issues because their communications need to stay relevant to be part of a larger dialogue. By not incorporating eco-friendly messaging, a brand can risk appearing archaic. They will look like a product during the age of beepers, getting fined for not rewinding video rentals, and wearing Zubaz to the grocery store.