Sail on Mission Blue


This week the TED organization and oceanographer Sylvia Earle announced the launch of Mission Blue, an ambitious campaign to inspire the public to protect the oceans. With the help of my employer Razorfish, TED and Sylvia Earle are tackling a branding challenge: how do you get people to care about yet another cause?

Mission Blue & How Razorfish Got Involved

Mission Blue is the result of Sylvia Earle’s 2009 TEDPrize wish to preserve marine-protected areas and to restore the world’s oceans. The TEDPrize is an annual $100,000 grant awarded by the nonprofit TED organization to help an annual winner realize a wish to effect world change. Razorfish has provided pro bono support to help previous TEDPrize winners fulfill their wishes, including the creation of the Encyclopedia of Life for biologist Edmund O. Wilson and Pangea Day for director Jehane Noujaim. Razorfish agreed to help Sylvia fulfill her wish, too.

Razorfish then did its homework and found that ocean conservation poses its own set of challenges. For instance, the ocean conservation movement is highly fragmented and lacks a singular rallying cry. Razorfish also found that there exists a large number of “blue consumers” who have an emotional connnection to the ocean, are aware that the oceans are becoming threatened by pollution, and yet do not know how to act.

So Razorfish decided the movement needed a brand to rally supporters — hence Razorfish conceived of the Mission Blue brand and campaign to connect people with the oceans emotionally. The key to the Mission Blue brand is narrowcasting. Mission Blue isn’t trying to reach out to everyone; rather, the brand is designed to target the blue consumers as well as enthusiasts (people like active surfers who have a vested interest in protecting the oceans) and influencers (people who are actively involved in ocean conservation and have the means to effect change).

Elements of Mission Blue

Mission Blue consists of several initiatives, such as:

  • Mission Blue Voyage, a sea voyage to the Galapagos Islands that kicked off April 6, bringing together renowned ocean experts, policy makers, business leaders, and artists to raise funds for marine-protected areas known as “Hope Spots” (a program akin to Adopt-a-Highway). During the voyage, participants are holding a “mini-TED conference” to raise awareness for the marine-protected areas. Participants include Jackson Browne, Chevy Chase, and cartoonist Jim Toomey. Once Razorfish pitched the Mission Blue brand to the TED organization, TED became a collaborative partner and generated the idea for the voyage itself. Razorfish is raising awareness for the voyage and connecting the experience to the outside world. For instance, Mission Blue Voyage participants have been relying on a Facebook page created by Razorfish to share their experiences as they sail to the Galapagos (check out the photos of Jackson Browne performing).
  • Beneath the Surface, which will help people understand how environmental degradation of the oceans affects the entire world. The campaign, conceived of by Razorfish, commences later in 2010. Beneath the Surface will include a microsite that enables people to share personal stories about their love of the oceans though personal notes, video messages, and music.

You can also follow Mission Blue on Twitter. If you want to get involved or have feedback about Mission Blue, contact Ray Samuels, Let’s see how enduring this brand can be.

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