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CarMax Caring Tree

Entered in Auto


Objective: Drive awareness and consideration for CarMax in a brand new market

In December 2015, CarMax was looking for help launching two new stores in the Boston, Massachusetts area – a brand new market for the company.

We knew we needed to find a compelling and authentic way to raise awareness of the store openings and introduce the CarMax brand to consumers in a new city - letting them know both who we are and what we stand for.

CarMax is a national brand but has its heart very much rooted at the local level: We're genuinely committed to the enrichment and future of the communities where our employees live and work.

Through giving, grants, and volunteer programs, CarMax supports the causes important to the people that work for the company. And this is what we wanted to communicate and share with the people of Boston.

Strategy and Execution

Our strategy was to combine technology and social media with a local passion point that would allow us to connect with consumers during the holiday season, at scale, help the local community and build positive brand awareness for CarMax.

Our starting point was the time-old holiday tradition of giving trees; a philanthropic tradition that we all grew-up encountering in schools, stores and malls - and something we found out from research has much historical meaning for the Boston area.

We took this idea and developed a social-first program featuring an interactive installation and an intuitive custom digital application. We're proud to say the CarMax Caring Tree was the first large-scale digital philanthropic activation of its kind.

Partnering with the New England Patriots to help drive awareness, along with a Boston-area non-profit, we created a live, interactive social experience at the December 6th Patriots game in Foxborough, MA.

CarMax's non-profit partner for this effort was Cradles to Crayons, a Boston-area organization that provides children up to age 12 living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive at home, school and play.

Our 8'x16' CarMax Caring Tree interactive display, created in partnership with Pink Sparrow Scenic, was the centerpiece of the activation. The display was equipped with six tablets and manned by brand ambassadors to encourage participation and help with the experience.

We built an end-to-end iPad app that allowed fans to select a gift for a child in need, including winter accessories, shirts and pants, footwear or a winter coat. Participants were not asked to financially contribute, as CarMax donated $20,000 to cover the cost of the items. The app then prompted fans to share their donation and goodwill message via social media.

Participants were asked to create UGC videos about why giving is important to them and as part of the partnership with the New England Patriots, former player Patrick Pass also got involved – helping to package gifts for the Cradles to Crayons charity with local CarMax associates.

"One of CarMax's foundational pillars is built on giving back, and this idea is true to our brand," - Jim Lyski, CarMax chief marketing officer. "CaringTree was a way to take the holiday tradition of a Giving Tree and modernize it with a social and digital twist."

"Fans were not asked to dig into their own pockets and make a donation," - Benjamin Arnold, We Are Social group account director. "Instead, we created an interactive platform for them to suggest how CarMax could give back to their own local community."

"In 2016, we'll use social media to help facilitate relationships between CarMax and the local community, buyers and sellers, and our associates," - Britt Farrar, CarMax social media strategy manager. "Our social strategy will champion transparency, amplify our unique stories, and inform consumers in the exceptional levels of service we provide."


Hundreds of fans stopped and participated in the activation – but more importantly hundreds of thousands of people in our target area watched our content and shared in the goodwill.

Post-activation, the CarMax Caring Tree anthem video was posted to YouTube, as well as featured on the CarMax, Cradles to Crayons & New England Patriots websites. Thirty second social cuts were also shared on Facebook and Twitter, with targeted promotional support.

The program was a phenomenal success. In terms of raising awareness, we saw...

Our content itself garnered...


Video for CarMax Caring Tree

Entrant Company / Organization Name

We Are Social, CarMax


Entry Credits