In early 2015, the Woolworths’ collaboration with Pharral Williams and subsequent AreYouWithUs campaign made headlines. It was a grounbreaking partnership between a leading retailer and a high-profile, internationally known music icon.
The strategy was sound: Pharrell is also known for his philanthropy and passion for the environment and the shared values between superstar and big business formed the perfect platform on which to build a high-impact campaign.
The main objective of the campaign was to make sustainability cool, and to highlight the work Woolworths does in education, ethical trade, sustainable farming and production methods, and social responsibility.
So did the collaboration work?
There have been some key milestones in the last year that speak of great success:
Bionic yarn is thread made from the tons of plastic that pollutes the planet’s oceans and rivers, and with Pharrell as a partner in this green textile firm, it made sense for Woolies to collaborate on a range of sustainable T-shirts. Young South Africans were invited to get involved by entering their designs and Pharrell selected the winning motifs. The talented designers won plenty of kudos and R25 000 in prize money, but perhaps it was the shoppers who got the best deal-- an exciting new offering of sustainable fashion that’s not only easy on the eye and wallet, but also on the planet.
School singing groups around the country were invited to compete for a chance to perform live with Pharrell during the private concert held exclusively for WRewards members. Williams personally selected the winners after local judges had whittled almost 200 eager entries down to 10 finalists. Eventually, a school singing group from Colin Mann Primary School in Germiston, Johannesburg, had stars in their eyes (and within their reach) in an unforgettable moment when they accompanied Pharrell live on stage, in a stirring rendition of his hit song Freedom. The super-talented youngsters also won a cash prize of R100 000 for their school, and used the funds to renovate the school hall, built over 50 years ago and badly in need of a makeover.
Over 100 000 existing and new customers registered as Wrewards members – all with the goal of winning tickets to attend a private Pharrell concert. A select few of them had the privilege to be part of an incredible music event, but more importantly, thanks to the underlying message of the “AreYouWithUs?” rallying cry, there was a massive upswing in customers’ understanding of the Woolies sustainability journey: from how Woolworths sources its products, to promoting recycling of packaging.
Education features at the heart of the collaboration. Woolies donates a large percentage of sales turnover to South African schools and charities every week through their partnership with MySchool. In a bid to strenghten the cause, Pharrell has asked customers to swipe their MySchool membership cards to help raise R100 million for education in South Africa. The campaign has had an incredibly positive response and by the end of 2015- only a third of the way into the 18 month-long drive-- over R41 million had already been raised.
It's cool to care
Earthcred is a participation platform designed to generate a movement for positive change. Through simple actions like joining a lift club to travel to work, or by adopting water-saving habits at home, customers can earn points and boost their chances of winning awards. Eco gift hampers, shopping vouchers and a R35000 grand prize are up for grabs every month, and the ultimate winner of the Earthcred challenge will get see Pharrell live at an international concert performance.
In just four months since Earthcred was launched, the number of registered players has reached a headcount of 1850, 1060 of whom are active participants. There are also 1050 registered schools on board (665 have earned points), and as of this month, they can earn their own points by meeting the challenges on the Earthcred website.
The journey continues
The AreYouWith Us campaign, which calls for customers to pledge their support for the Woolworths Good Business Journey has turned out to be an inspirational meeting of commerce, celebrity and community, and proven that there are plenty of South Africans wanting to make a difference.
The question now is: Are you still with us?