The PSFK consulting team has noticed that gaming systems are tapping into people’s inherent desire to be rewarded for their positive behaviors, developing creative ways to connect real world actions with earning points or currency.
One company operating in this space is Recyclebank–an online platform that rewards individuals with points and cash rebates for making environmentally conscious decisions both on and offline. Users register with the site and can commit to a number of pledges that include using less energy, increasing their at home recycling, or learning how they can be more environmentally friendly in their neighborhood. The platform rewards every-day decisions with grocery store savings, drugstore coupons, and discounts from participating brands. Kashi and Ziploc have really pioneered their partnership to motivate people to recycle their packaging. Registration is currently only open to residents of the US and UK. PSFK spoke with the Chief Revenue Officer of Recyclebank, Samantha Skey.
Please provide a brief introduction about yourself and your company.
Very simply, Recyclebank motivates people and communities to take everyday green actions, such as recycling, saving energy, taking more sustainable transportation or learning about how to live greener lives. We offer points to our members each time they take one of these actions, which they can then redeem for rewards. And today, we have more than 3,000 local and national rewards partners in our roster, including companies like Ziploc®, AVEENO®, Kashi® and Brita®.
My job here at Recyclebank is to build meaningful partnerships with companies who are endeavoring to reach mainstream consumers. These alliances allow us to educate and engage consumers across the globe in pursuit of our mission to reduce waste. We believe we can do well by doing good by enabling brands to partner with consumers to reduce waste in the world. By inviting consumers and corporations to collaborate on green action, we build loyalty for brands, and a rewarding lifestyle change for consumers. And as a mom myself, I love the idea of motivating families to do the right thing for the planet and for their wallets… and to involve their children in the process.
Before joining Recyclebank, I was chief marketing officer for social software company Passenger and prior to that, I worked for Alloy Media & Marketing, Disney and CNET. I began my digital career in 1994 by joining the founding team at Interactive Imaginations’ award-winning Riddler, one of the web’s first real-time, multi-player, reward-based gaming sites.
Please tell us about Recyclebank. What is the idea and goal behind the platform?
In 2005, Recyclebank took its first steps by launching a pilot home recycling rewards program in Philadelphia. Since then, we’ve fundamentally changed the way households, communities and local government approaches waste disposal. And through our partnerships with local municipalities and haulers, we’ve dramatically increased recycling participation through rewards from local and national business partners, saving taxpayers millions and stimulating local commerce. Today, Recyclebank has millions of members in the United States and the United Kingdom, and with our recent acquisition of Greenopolis in October 2011, we’re the leading online recycling rewards program in North America.
Recyclebank realized early on that the digital medium would be key in motivating people on a mass scale to change their behaviors. So, in recent years, we’ve expanded our approach far beyond the rewards-for-recycling model, developing new ways to educate and empower people to lead more sustainable lives. We also leverage the concept of “gaming for good”—engaging members online while influencing behaviors offline in a fun, educational setting. Past initiatives we’ve undertaken, such as the Green Your Home Challenge, have educated, motivated and inspired people to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Over the last year, Recyclebank has worked to scale its innovation to reach a MASS consumer audience for a MASSIVE environmental impact through the intersection of online behavior and offline action. Our ultimate goal is not to just increase recycling rates, but also to curb energy and water consumption, encourage smarter transportation, strengthen local economies and help people realize the financial benefits of making greener choices every day.
What has been the audience reaction? Can you share any stats around user reactions?
The response to Recyclebank has been really amazing since the beginning. In part, I think this is because people intrinsically want to do good! We’ve seen so much excitement from consumers around engaging their favorite brands; as our brand partnerships help to broaden the message of everyday green actions, more and more consumers are getting involved.
We hear amazing feedback from our members each day. Just one example: Recyclebank recently joined forces with Brita to help consumers reduce the amount of water bottles they use each day. It was a really exciting initiative for both our companies because reducing the use of plastic water bottles doesn’t just reduce waste—it also conserves oil, water and energy. One mom, who joined the challenge with her young daughter, was so excited to tell us about her experience. Her daughter loves the Brita water bottle that her mom got her and takes it everywhere she goes—the mother even posted a picture to our Facebook page! For her, the chance to involve her family in living green, and get rewarded for it was exciting on many levels. And we hear this level of enthusiasm from members across the board.
Our digital platform also creates a daily dialogue with consumers through our social media presence on Facebook (146,090 fans) and Twitter (55,139 followers) on simple ways to live greener lives. And as always, results speak for themselves: In Recyclebank’s Points for Planet Initiative, Kashi® and Ziploc® have really pioneered their partnership to motivate people to recycle their packaging. By entering a code online, found on specially marked packages, consumers are pledging to recycle their Kashi® cereal box or Ziploc® bags, helping to reduce the impact on our landfills while earning Recyclebank points. Tens of thousands of codes have been entered since these programs launched.
In another example, before partnering with Recyclebank in July 2008, residents in Philadelphia only recycled eight percent of their total household waste. In the first six months following the roll-out of the Recyclebank program, however, the city’s diversion rate increased by 16 percent. By January 2011, the waste diversion rate eclipsed 20 percent for the first time in Philadelphia’s history.
We are seeing the development of game systems that are blurring the lines between online and offline economies, often connecting in-game actions with charitable efforts or rewarding people for socially-responsible behaviors. Do you see this trend manifesting on a larger scale?
At the recent Games for Change Festival, Al Gore said “games are the new normal” and that “the gamification trend is really powerful” in helping to solve issues like climate change. An April report issued by Gartner predicted that by 2015, more than 50% of organizations will gamify their innovation processes, and suggested that at some point, gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon. Indeed, over the past year we’ve seen an influx of startups using social gaming to motivate people to “do good” and change their lifestyles. Armed with the philosophy that it is only by inspiring a massive shift in consumer behavior that we can make a measurable impact on the world, these companies use gaming mechanics and incentives to engage, educate and motivate global audiences.
One recent market example is the creation of Keas, an inherently social game designed to keep people healthier by turning a healthy lifestyle into a game. Another great example of gamification is the creation of SCVNGR, a location-based service that puts a huge emphasis on gaming. SCVNGR users can check into a local restaurant and may have to answer a trivia question or take a photo—businesses engage with customers through the game and get to choose how to customize their challenges. Coca-Cola and American Eagle are among the brands catching on and using SCVNGR for social media campaigns.
What other trends within or around gaming have you noticed?
When it comes to using gaming for good, we’re entering a really exciting time—the idea has expanded into multiple areas, not just sustainability and green living, but also thinking about how we can use gaming to motivate healthy behavior, improve the education system and engage people when they’re on the go. On the health front, for instance, we recently partnered with Transport for London to develop a mobile app that will reward people for cycling and walking in London. By incentivizing people to cycle or walk in the Capital, the program will help reduce pollution, ease congestion and boost fitness among Londoners. Our hope is that this becomes a model for cities in the U.S. to exemplify–not only does it promote exercise, it also alleviates transportation congestion and reduces pollution. It’s a triple win. As seen with companies like Foursquare, SCVNGR and others, people are hungry for chances to play games on their mobile devices that tie into their real lives.
For more information on the Concepts and our Gaming for Good report, click here.