How the challenges of the pandemic strengthened the program
There is a recurring theme in experiential’s recovery: partnership. Brands and agencies will be counting on partnership to reinvigorate relationships, meet the challenges of reactivation and boost the bottom line. And in many cases, brands may be counting on each other in partnership to combine resources and add dimension to thoughtful pandemic-era programming.
A partnership between H&R Block and Nextdoor for a campaign conceived before the pandemic took on a new dimension in the wake of the crisis. The campaign, Make Every Block Better, is a cause marketing initiative that includes a call for consumers across the country to nominate their neighborhood for a community improvement project. H&R Block teamed up with Nextdoor to amplify the program through its local neighborhood platform.
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For the 2020 program, nearly 2,000 nominations across the 50 states were received and 10 compelling projects were chosen involving murals, street cleanups and community gardens. Local H&R Block employees, neighborhood volunteers and small businesses partnered to help make the wishes a reality. Make Every Block Better continues with submissions for 2021 projects are open through March 31 via hrbnextdoor.com (Agencies: Seven2, Spokane, WA; Be The Machine, Mamaroneck, NY).
For 66-year-old H&R Block, the campaign represents a new marketing direction for the brand focused on community involvement and engagement.
“We realized we have 12 million hours total every year with our customers discussing important life events—the birth of a child, a new home, a new job—and all of these conversations create a connectedness,” says Angela Davied, vp-corporate communications at H&R Block. “In addition to that, we’re in just about every congressional district in the United States, and we felt like it was important to continue these conversations beyond the tax desk.”
The original plan was to have the program fueled by national partners, but when COVID-19 hit the team pivoted to partnering with local small businesses, many of whom stepped up to donate supplies, provide gift cards or provide meals to volunteers. It kept the volunteer events regional, more contained and safe, but also more meaningful.
“Ultimately, we were able to bring to life this whole small business element of the project that initially wasn’t on our radar,” Davied says. “To other marketers I would say, don’t waste a crisis, because even during a challenging time, it may make your program even better than you had originally planned.”
For Nextdoor, Make Every Block Better was a natural fit as it elevated the “neighborhood ecosystem,” focused on small businesses, involved public service agencies, and involved neighbors physically connecting with one another (safely, of course).
“Great partnerships are ones that amplify both your purposes, right?” says Maryam Banikarim, cmo at Nextdoor. “They allow you to really problem solve together and bring that beginner’s mindset into the mix.”
Among projects executed was a community garden in Cincinnati across the street from a school. Partnering with a local artist, the volunteers created a crosswalk space from the school to make travel to and from the garden safer. For another project in Kuna, ID, volunteers helped prepare ball fields that had become overgrown and compromised due to financial and labor demands for the Youth Baseball and Softball Association.
Behind the program was research that pointed to overarching neighborhood challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. H&R Block cites CEO Snapshot Survey data that found one-third of small business owners say isolation is a big problem, as well as Pew Research that found only 31 percent of Americans know their neighbors. And Nextdoor’s own #KINDChallenge research found knowing as few as six neighbors reduces the likelihood of “feeling lonely” and is linked to “lowering depression, social anxiety, and financial concerns related to COVID-19.”
Partnerships and community—a recipe for success in a world, and industry, recovering from a pandemic.