Is Community Service the New Green?

Marjora Carter had a simple plan to “green the Bronx.” Upon forming Sustainable South Bronx, Carter worked to plant trees around the community thus creating “green collar” jobs. Her story and others will be the focus of Frito-Lay TrueNorth’s upcoming ad campaign breaking during the Oscars.

TrueNorth nut snacks joins a growing field of brands placing the community at the forefront of their marketing messages. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Starbucks and Scholastic, in conjunction with FAO Schwartz, are just the latest to rally around rebuilding neighborhoods and promoting community service in their advertising.

A focus on the community “is in the air,” said Simon Sinek, president of Sinek Partners brand consultancy. “With President Obama we are ushering in an era of service. Community service is bigger than green.”

How big? Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes is running its first ever Super Bowl spot to promote its “Earn your stripes effort.” The “Plant a seed” spot will encourage moms to nominate local playing fields for renovation at

“At Kellogg, we are fully committed to supporting programs that encourage kids to be active and that have a positive impact in our communities,” said Kellogg rep Susanne Norwitz. Fifty fields will be selected as part of the campaign.

TrueNorth is targeting a different audience, namely boomers interested in a healthy snack. To do so, its new campaign, debuting Feb. 22, shows people who have “found their true north” in life. In addition to Carter, Penny Harvest founder Teddy Gross will also be featured. Consumer stories that were submitted at will also be featured in a 60-second ad directed by Helen Hunt.

The message works because Boomers “are at a stage when they are asking themselves, ‘What am I passionate about in life? What is going to be meaningful to me?’” said Chip Walker, head strategist at Strawberry Frog, the agency responsible for the campaign.

This week, Scholastic Media is joining the community service crowd by launching Clifford the Big Red Dog’s “Be Big!” campaign and the “Be Big Fund.” The program invites people to spread the word about Clifford’s 10 big ideas which include sharing, helping others and working together. Scholastic, in conjunction with the Points of Light Institute and the HandsOnNetwork, will work to implement large-scale volunteer programs later in the year.

“The national tone of volunteerism makes the campaign all the more relevant,” said Daisy Kline, dir., marketing for Scholastic Media. President Obama’s focus on community service “makes it timely, but [Be Big!] has been in development long before he was talking about volunteerism. This is a natural extension for the Clifford brand. It is not opportunistic at all.”

National print, outdoor and online ads will tell people “It only takes a little…to be big.” For every online Clifford Valentine’s Day card sent from, $1 will be donated to the Be Big Fund.

FAO Schwartz is also onboard, promoting the cause in its stores as well as its boutiques at Macy’s stores nationwide. Ten percent of the proceeds from certain Clifford items will also go to the fund. In the fall, Scholastic will follow up with a PSA campaign about the effort.

Perhaps no community service push received more attention of late than Starbucks “I’m in” push which also involved the HandsOnNetwork. Consumers who pledged five hours of community service, between Jan. 21 and Jan. 25, received a free coffee. More than 1.3 million hours of service were pledged.

Amid all of Starbucks bad news about layoffs and store closings, the effort gave Starbucks something to rally around. “In today’s economy, we need to remind customers why they love Starbucks; it’s more than just the best cup of coffee they can get, it’s about being a part of something bigger than them, and that’s exactly what this campaign did,” said Starbucks Coffee Company rep Vivek Varma. “I was blown away by the response to our ‘I’m in’ campaign and proud of the statement we made as a company about how committed to our communities we are.”

Community service has a bigger impact  than green messaging “because there is cause and effect,” said Sinek. “Green is too intellectual. Community service is in your backyard. It directly impacts your life. It happens immediately—not 50 years later in the ozone layer.”