Stormwater is such an abstract concept for people. But when we’re tasked with getting the public to understand pollution-conveying runoff and the need for water conservation during an ongoing drought, we needed something – or someone – to help in the effort. We needed a gnome.
We looked for a mascot for our client, Orange County Stormwater Program. A lovable and personable garden gnome came to be and residents named Gnorman during a social media contest. While in reality Gnorman is a custom-made ceramic piece, he has taken on a life of his own during this campaign and speaks in a voice that residents listen to.
When emails come from Gnorman, the quality of engagement goes up. More people joined the bi-weekly newsletter mailing list. The open rate topped 60 percent. The message was not only getting out there, but was also being well-received. Website page views increased. We found that the public loved the personal stories that were being shared. People began emailing to share their own stories and photos of their gardens, but not with us, with Gnorman. Emails were actually addressed to Gnorman. So, he replied back. He also showed up at local gardening events to educate OC residents and appeared in a video about a drought-tolerant yard. In all, he was seen across 34 cities, reaching 3.1 million residents.
Getting a social marketing message across always has its challenges. Even when people know how important an effort like water conservation is, getting them to take action isn’t always easy. Gnorman has made it easier. These days, you can find him on more than 1,000 lawn signs all over Orange County. He keeps touting the message: Over Watering is Out. Blue ribbons on those signs indicate that resident has taken action to have drought-tolerant landscaping, reduce sprinkler times, save water and eliminate runoff.
The program’s goal to create a new norm – or gnorm – was achieved. Christy Suppes, an OC environmental resources specialist says, “We believe residents understand their impact and how their actions at home made a difference.” Additionally, the campaign was honored by the California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA) with the Outstanding Regional Stormwater News, Information, Outreach and Media Award.
For more information on the campaign and Gnorman, check out overwateringisout.org.