Google & Recyclebank Set Earth Day Challenge to 'Green' Your Social Graph

Recycle Banks has teamed up with Google to test game mechanics as a way of empowering consumers to go green, while spring cleaning their homes. The annual Green Your Home Challenge, commencing today on 'earth day' will be a "test of truth" for how the green industry can take an alternative and holistic vision to market and simultaneously empower consumers to change their lifestyle.

By contributing photos of green deeds and referring friends, contestants qualify to win thousands of dollars worth of prizes. This year's grand prize includes energy star household appliances and a free consultation to green the winners' home.

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What could be so exciting for Google about greening homes? The companies are on a mission to measure the impact of game mechanics using Google Analytics, in order to learn which factors most effectively trigger sustainable practices through user engagement.

Game Mechanics in Marketing Strategies

Game mechanics aren't necessarily new to green marketing strategies, although Google's analysis may turn out to be the most insightful yet and could pave the way for greener consumers, empowering incentives from companies, and smarter energy consumption for everyone.

Attempts by brands and green initiative sites have already begun to test the waters of emotional impact, community engagement, and leader board gaming tactics.

Similar efforts are noticeable in Nissan's Leaf Rewards, Toyota Prius' Car Town, and OPOWER campaigns. Depending on what Google, ROI, and Recyclebank's results reveal, new campaigns toward the green initiative may take on a whole new light.

Nissan Leaf Rewards 2011

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Nissan's Leaf electric car puts efficiency, environmentalism, and gaming to the test. Leaf drivers have a component on their dashboard called Carwings, which tracks the driver's efficiency information (Fuel use, mileage, etc) and puts the owner in competition with other Leaf drivers in the region or neighborhood.

Technology and competition, sounds great, right? One problem: the Leaf has recently been in the spotlight with some products failing to start, a highly dangerous quality for any kind of car.

If Nissan can work out some minor starting issues, the Carwings program is a great way to get consumers thinking about their carbon footprints in a light hearted and competitive way.

Toyota Prius and Car Town

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Toyota Prius' Car Town on Facebook was launched to encourage interaction between owners and create a more connected community. Toyota was able to reach its highly valued audience of 7.2 million users of Car Town. Owners were able to earn badges and buy and sell cars through this Facebook App.

Car Town engaged the brand and created organic promotion for Prius. Car Town helped generate buzz for Prius, engage its community and reached consumers in a convenient spot where they spend most of their time while avoiding real life situations: social network platforms.

"We don't just throw ads in front of consumers to drive impressions. We create game elements and game extensions that incorporate the key messages of the brands we work with ensuring a level of attention and engagement to the brand those other media properties and games don't achieve," said the president and CEO of CIE games, owner of Car Town.

Although the campaign was to promote Toyota products, the importance lies on the family of products being greener than others, therefore assigning more positive recognition to smart cars such as the Prius.

OPOWER

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Opower's way of encouraging consumer to keep up with the Joneses by driving consumers to compare energy consumption to everyone else, while using Opower's services in the process. With Opower, the consumer can see how much better or worse they are at saving money on energy bills compared to their neighborhood.

The use of bragging rights from competition seems to be the angle, but how much are bragging rights worth? Apparently, tracking energy consumption and bragging rights are enough to top off a $35 million profit for Opower in 2010.

But is energy tracking enough to make fully conscious green consumers, not just at home, but in stores, restaurants, on vacation, and at work?

Why Google + Recyclebank is Different and Better

Many attempts at game mechanics provide positive engagement to raise green awareness, but have yet to deliver a real-world sustainable impact as they have remained fairly virtual and aimed at a single conscientious consumer, rather than a community of like-minded people. Google's current experiment with Recyclebank offers physical and valuable prizes to drive a genuinely 'healthy' competition between close communities of people to perhaps make them all a bit greener.

Hopefully, practical incentives from the Green Your Homes contest will show more results with stronger engagement than plain leader boards, emotional appeal, pure community engagement or 'gamified' dashboards on vehicles. It promises to be an awesome green campaign test. Not only will it showcase the new Google Analytics software's full capabilities, but Google's influence and know-how to measure engagement is something that many emerging organization and companies in the green industry don't have the time or access to resources to do for themselves.

No one quite knows how to hit the nail on the head to influence sustainable behaviors, with this collaboration on Recyclebank's Green Your Home challenge, all the right pieces to the puzzle are laid out on the table. Which mechanic will prove to be most influential? Only time and, hopefully, Google will tell.