Trade Secrets From An Eco-preneur - Aligning With Sustainable Causes

Many brands today are looking to align themselves with sustainable causes, but may be challenged and confused by how to make it happen. As a follow-up to last month’s post, “Is a Sustainable App in Your Future?,” I interviewed Tom Corbett, general manager at Indiecentive

The New Jersey-based company creates code-based entertainment rewards including e-gift cards, digital movie rentals, gift cards and more. Indiecentive is also the creator of Treecycler, a sustainable gift purchase interface (enabled for mobile technology) that allows buyers to plant trees benefitting specific reforestation projects around the globe. Formally introduced a year and a half year ago, Treecycler is building momentum and attracting brands like Kellogg, Tyson Foods and Swagbucks. 

Q: How did the Treecycler concept come about?

A: During a brainstorm session at SXSW, we conceptualized Treecycler, which took our “plant-a-tree” code-based reward product concept to a new level. Companies and brands dedicated to memorial tree planting on behalf of their customers can now give their constituents a say in the process, including the selection of an actual reforestation partner initiative they wish to support. Clients also get to track the progress of the individual reforestation initiative from start to finish and watch where their money is going. Treecycler is both a sustainable engagement and relationship-building tool. 

Q: How did you approach the rebranding of the plant-a-tree product to Treecycler? 

A: Our main goal was to spread the word about Treecycler, so we built a site with enhanced functionality and a strong social media component. On the backend, we also needed to make sure that revenue from purchased trees is allotted to the correct restoration project. The biggest challenge was to solidify relationships with reforestation partners globally, since the majority of these initiatives are government funded and run on a shoestring with few staff members, juggling numerous responsibilities. Such organizations are in dire need of funding. 

Q: How important is it to keep things easy for Treecycler users?

A: The website’s turnkey design and navigation also tells a story at the same time. At every step of the way, Treecycler takes the user on a journey. Video explanations in key places make it simple and intuitive. At any point, users have the option to review instructions or switch projects they’re supporting before they redeem the code. To ensure a fluid user experience, we spent several months on beta testing, getting feedback from existing clients, friends and family, encouraging them to play around on the site.

Q: What is your promotion strategy? 

A: Our sales team combines word-of-mouth communication along with a robust social media campaign. The ability to combine rewards programs through our other divisions has spurred further trial (i.e., win movie tickets and try Treecycler).

Q: How challenging is it to get brands on board?

A: As with any new product, developing a clientele is a building process. The ability to use our core Indiecentive business as a launch pad for Treecycler gave us an edge. Leading brands such as Tyson Foods, Sierra Nevada and Kellogg got involved early. In fact, the Kellogg’s Family Rewards program has planted 10,000 trees to date! This level of engagement will help us to get other brands on board.

Q: What's some advice you would give to others looking to do something similar?

A: First and foremost, it’s important to have a cause you are passionate about. In this case, it’s sustainability, climate change and reforestation. These beliefs tie back to our corporate DNA. Second, you need a dedicated team of people with experience and passion who can actualize the concept and are willing to see it through. Tying the product to social purpose is paramount. With so many NGOs in dire need of funding, it’s a question of identifying the right one. 

The company’s plant-a-tree program is the gold standard for online reforestation projects. By combining the visibility of powerful brands with a dedicated team of designers and developers, the Treecycler program can proudly report that users have planted hundreds of thousands of trees around the world!

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