Maybe you’ve heard that 1 out of every 3 bites of food humans eat is made possible by pollinators; but did you also know that 1 in 4 species of bees is at risk of extinction? When it comes to protecting these powerful little pollinators, there’s no time to lose.
When Walmart announced new commitments to safeguard pollinators throughout their supply chain in 2021, their Pest Management team made a commitment of their own: to protect the climate-critical bee species that end up on Walmart properties. In less than a full calendar year, between May 2021 and March 2022, Walmart protected or relocated over 15 million bees through hive relocation and swarm protection – that’s 191 hives across 163 stores and clubs in 28 states.
Recognizing the global importance of bees and pollinators – along with the widespread popularity of beekeepers and #BeeTok on social media – Walmart’s Corporate Communications team seized the opportunity to raise awareness about their efforts to become a regenerative company among three vital audiences: business peers, Walmart associates, and their home community of Bentonville, Arkansas.
The result was a full suite of multi-dimensional creative storytelling spanning digital, social, and interactive in-person activations uniquely relevant to each audience, thoughtfully launched in conjunction with key pollinator cultural moments throughout spring and summer 2022.
While Walmart has already made significant headway in its efforts to become a regenerative company, breaking through to audiences with sustainability messaging can be challenging – it oftentimes may be too high level and abstract to connect with associates and the public. Because of this, Walmart has historically seen its sustainability communications perform below benchmark compared to other topics.
The work began with a unique insight: While not everyone may engage with broad sustainability storytelling, we found small-but-mighty, passionate groups rallied around specific sustainable causes. That’s where bees come in. Bees and beekeeping sit at the intersection of niche interest and trending popularity, making Walmart’s pollinator commitments the perfect micro-story to bring the company’s sustainability efforts to life – and tap into a subset of “pollinator passionate” individuals from across audiences.
To increase awareness of Walmart’s pollinator protection efforts across business peers, Walmart associates and their Bentonville community, Walmart went far beyond the standard press kit and devised a multi-platform, cross-media campaign that incorporated the following:
- A dynamic and data-rich press release on their corporate website;
- A community partnership with The Walmart Museum, including a Draw Alive virtual experience where kids and families could color and customize their own digital bees before releasing them back into nature; a special bee-themed sundae served in the Museum’s ice cream shop; and activities at Bentonville’s community-wide event First Friday, where kids and families were able to meet real local beekeepers, learn about Walmart’s work to protect bees with coloring and activity sheets; and even plant and take home their own pollinator friendly flowers. The museum attracts visitors from across the U.S., allowing Walmart to reach families from far outside their home community;
- 18 bite-sized graphics, GIFs and polls shared on Walmart Inc social channels for Earth Day, World Bee Day and National Pollinator Week, amplified on key Walmart executive social channels;
- Associate-driven storytelling that highlighted real, passionate “Pollinator Protectors” across Walmart, shared on Walmart’s own Walmart World media network designed to reach the company’s global workforce of 2.3 million associates: Walmart World Radio, featuring associate stories in two separate broadcasts, each with a reach of 5,300 Walmart facilities; as well as on Walmart World web and social – including “Inside the Hive,” a video featuring Jason, a Walmart associate and amateur beekeeper;
- Amplification of the above content through email distributions to Walmart World subscribers and Walmart Home Office associates, with a combined reach of 160,503 associates;
- A paid pilot on Reddit, targeting subreddits focused on sustainability and beekeeping and driving traffic back to Walmart’s original blog post.
By cultivating interest and conversation within the company’s own associate base and their home community by partnering with The Walmart Museum, Walmart created an ecosystem of content that could be tailored, adapted and shared across their platforms. This allowed them to break through the standard sustainability message and give associates, business peers and consumers alike reason to believe that Walmart knows how important it is to bee the change you want to see.
Performance exceeded nearly all Walmart’s forecasts and has had an ongoing community impact. We set out to increase awareness, sentiment, foot traffic, and even the number of flowers planted around town – with almost no paid amplification.
Our press release generated 43% more Page Views of the blog post compared to other sustainability-focused content.
Total impressions across online/social was over 500K, exceeding their forecast of 375K by 33%.
Overall museum foot traffic increased by 50% during the exhibit’s first three months compared to the previous quarter – leading to over 60K locals and visitors having the opportunity to learn more about Walmart’s sustainability efforts.
Reddit is notoriously a challenging space for brands to make an impact. Despite this, Walmart’s paid efforts demonstrated that authentically reaching passionate subgroups with relevant messaging pays off. Their campaign exceeded benchmark for impressions by 10%, clicks by 54%, and CPC by 8%.
Lastly, the goal was not only to educate but to empower the community to take action. Walmart also wanted to give the bees around Bentonville more flowers to pollinate and grow their numbers as a result. At a Bentonville First Friday event with over 5,000 attendees, Walmart provided over 200 pots and handed out an estimated 500 packets of wildflower seeds, potentially adding an additional 12,500 planted wildflowers to their community.
Walmart continues to see buzz about the campaign online, flowers blossoming in local neighborhoods, and broader recognition that the company uplifts local communities sustainably.