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Special Project

Special Project
From the 5th Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

The Virtual National Forest

Winner in Consumer Brand, User Generated Content

Finalist in Food & Beverage


For the Black Forest® brand, the forest is a huge part of who we are. It’s in our name and at the root of our belief that all choices, big and small, can make a real difference for us and our planet. In 2019, we leveraged social media to help raise $100,000 to plant 100,000 trees across U.S. National Forests impacted by wildfires. In 2020, we wanted to see that number grow. For a second year, Black Forest® partnered with the National Forest Foundation, this time donating $500,000 upfront and creating a new campaign on social to allow fans to help us donate even more. To get it done, we wanted to raise awareness of the brand’s reforestation efforts and plant even more trees across U.S. National Forests. 

Our challenge? Create a way for our community to get involved while they were stuck at home due to social distancing regulations across the US.

Strategy and Execution

In celebration of Arbor Day on April 24, Black Forest® launched the Virtual National Forest, the world’s first-ever crowd-sourced, entirely digital national forest. This was a part of the brand’s ongoing efforts with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) to help plant 1.5 million trees across U.S. forests by the end of 2022. 

Over the course of the 2-month campaign, fans helped rebuild U.S. forests from home by commenting on any photo of a tree on their Instagram using the emoji hashtag #🐻❤️🌲. For every use of the hashtag, fans planted a digital tree in the Virtual National Forest and we planted one IRL. Each hashtag triggered a $1 donation from Black Forest® (up to $50,000) to the cause, in addition to the $500,000 already donated to the NFF in 2020.

Understanding that consumers were under immense stress this year, we challenged ourselves to identify ways to give them a moment of serenity supported with a philanthropic, feel-good moment. Because it is scientifically proven that looking at photos of trees can reduce stress, this led us to develop a way for fans to enjoy nature and lush forest environments without having to leave the safety of their home. The Virtual National Forest allowed users to do just that simply by searching #🐻❤️🌲on Instagram

To amplify our message, we partnered with influencers in the nature and wellness space to spread the word. Each of our 26 partners helped drive participation by resharing images of trees to their Instagram using  #🐻❤️🌲and encouraging their followers to do the same. We also tapped our partner, the National Forest Foundation, who posted about the ongoing campaign on their social channels. Throughout the campaign, fans were able to spot the #🐻❤️🌲and the National Forest Foundation logo on Black Forest’s packaging as a call to consumers to support the cause. To keep the momentum going, on Love a Tree Day (May 16) we partnered with Drew Barrymore to increase awareness and participation. As a result of our efforts, publications such as Mobile Marketing, US Weekly, and People featured the campaign in editorial pieces to further raise awareness and drive readers to the Virtual National Forest. On top of all of this,  Black Forest® canceled its TV advertising campaign and instead donated that production budget to the important cause.  

When all was said and done, together, Black Forest® and the National Forest Foundation created a beautiful mosaic of trees and nature photos fans could enjoy, share and celebrate online in anticipation of the 1.5 million new trees to be planted in the near future.


Not only did we create a new national forest, we also introduced the world to Black Forest®. The Virtual National Forest campaign brought forth record-breaking numbers for the Black Forest® brand, raking in a total of 1 Billion earned impressions —a huge win for our goal of creating awareness around forest restoration.

There were more than 17.2K virtual trees planted on the #🐻❤️🌲 hashtag. The Virtual National Forest campaign was one of the highest performing campaigns for Black Forest® to date. The forest grew so big, even the National Forest Foundation wanted to celebrate. On Love a Tree Day, they officially deemed it an official virtual national forest. In total, $500,000 was donated to the National Forest Foundation, helping to plant 1.5 million trees by 2022. We believe all forests are important because they provide places for families to connect together and rediscover nature. The Virtual National Forest campaign brought us one step closer to ensuring these forests are around for years to come. And in the end, the numbers spoke for themselves:


Video for The Virtual National Forest

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Day One Agency, Duncan Channon, Golin, Geometry, Mindshare, Black Forest


Entry Credits