Saving Chesapeake Bay: One Crabcake at a Time


Jan. 25, 2007


Conner, C

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Galveston Bay Estuary Program


Facing booming population growth and ambitious nutrient reduction goals, the Chesapeake Bay Program wanted to persuade average citizens to help protect the bay. Efforts were already underway to reduce pollution from farmers, developers, local governments and others, but new programs were needed to specifically targeted the watershed's growing residential base. At first glance, residents appeared supportive: Nine out of ten watershed residents reported being concerned about the Bay's health. Almost half - 48% -- described themselves as "very concerned." Yet, most continued to behave in ways that threatened the bay's health - over-fertilizing lawns, neglecting septic tank maintenance and leaving pet waste to flow into the bay. In the end, the concern was nice, but people's individual actions were damaging the bay regardless of how anyone felt. The Chesapeake Club outreach initiative set out to change how residents act. The first challenge was deciding exactly how the program wanted residents to behave. A few dozen stewardship behaviors were identified and ranked according to their simplicity, their impact and the ability of individuals to engage in the behavior. Initiative leaders decided to target one simple yet important behavior as way to begin building a larger campaign. The goal was to begin building a brand identity with a stronger appeal than standard environmental messages. Straight environmental messages appear to resonate with a specific psychographic (those who most identify as environmentalists), but fail to encourage stewardship actions with a larger audience. By creating a new brand identity - one NOT associated with an environmental appeal - the initiative could truly reach a new audience in a more persuasive way, then the Chesapeake Bay Program could leverage this same brand to encourage other stewardship behaviors. Initiative leaders decided to target the use of fertilizer in the spring because it is so frequently misused and over-applied, leading to a spike in nutrient runoff during the spring. Choosing lawn fertilization as a target behavior made sense for a number of reasons, including: 1. Lawn care is among the most controllable individual actions that most affects Bay water quality. 2. Changing lawn care behavior by waiting until fall to fertilize is not hard to do. 3. Lawn fertilization is a visible, public behavior that is subject to social reinforcement. Behaviors were marketed under a single brand so that, even after the campaign concluded, the program would be left with an important asset - a non-environmental brand that appealed to an audience the program had not effectively reached before. By reaching new audiences about Bay restoration, Chesapeake Club seeks to expand the congregation, not preach to the choir.




Chesapeake Bay Program, Chesapeake Club, fertilizer application, lawn care, marketing