Campaign of the Week

11 October 2022

Tech retailer offers Minecraft money for unwanted gadgets 

Norway's Elkjøp Nordic partners with Microsoft to give customers in-game currency in return unwanted electronics

According to a live counter of e-waste in 2022, almost 37 million tonnes of electrical items (e-waste) have been disposed of this year (at the time of writing). Total e-waste increases by at least 2 million tonnes annually, making it the world’s fastest-growing waste stream.

Norwegian tech retailer Elkjøp Nordic is the largest consumer electronics retailer in the Nordic countries, with more than 400 stores in six countries. Producing electronic devices such as phones and computers involves the extraction of valuable minerals and metals from finite natural resources, and Elkjøp Nordic wants to encourage more electronic recycling to create a more sustainable industry.

Based on the insight that most of us have old or obsolete electronics in our homes, the retailer teamed up with Nord DDB, Oslo, to incentivise people, particularly the younger generation, to recycle their old gadgets. 

In collaboration with Microsoft (which owns the video game Minecraft), Elkjøp Nordic launched Urban Miner, an initiative that rewards Minecraft players with in-game currency, Minecoins, for returning their e-waste. 

Anyone in the Nordics (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland and the Faroe Islands) can take their old electronics to their nearest Elkjøp, Elgiganten or Gigantti store to recycle them and earn Minecoins in return. Each gadget has a value that corresponds to the recyclable materials it contains, which adds an educational component to the campaign by highlighting the different materials, what they do, and what they are worth, explains a press release.

The campaign consists of a series of films for digital and cinema, which show Minecraft characters coming to life to ‘mine’ old, unused electronic devices. These paid elements will be supported by activations and posters in stores across the Nordics. 

The partnership with Microsoft connects Elkjøp Nordic to more than 140 million Minecraft players, and reflects the spirit of the game, explained Nils Martin Øyo, marketing manager of gaming at Elkjøp Nordic, in a press release. ‘We want to use the world's biggest hobby to engage new target groups and convey an important message – there are millions of old gadgets lying around in Nordic households that need to be recycled,’ he said. ‘In the same way that the characters in Minecraft mine for materials to make something new, we want people to “mine” their old electronics by returning them to us so that the valuable materials in them can be recovered.’

‘This is a sustainability initiative driven by a creative idea rooted in pop culture,’ added Jens Østrem, creative at Nord DDB. ‘We work where the target group is and make it easy for them to act. Minecraft is a great example of people using their ingenuity and problem-solving abilities to create. It is a case of the virtual world coming to the aid of the real world.’

Contagious Insight 

Digital to physical / Alongside beautifully executed creative, this campaign achieves a real-world goal through digital means. It’s not often that we see a truly (apologies in advance for the nauseating portmanteau) phygital concept where there’s a genuine value exchange between the physical and digital worlds. As Nord DDB’s Jens Østrem so aptly puts it, ‘it is a case of the virtual world coming to the aid of the real world’. By offering Minecraft currency as a reward for recycling e-waste, Elkjøp Nordic taps into a huge and growing community of gamers, a large proportion of which falls into the campaign’s target audience: 15- to 21-year-olds comprise 43% of the player base, and under-15s account for around 21% of players. 

Better together / The collaboration is a perfect example of a purposeful partnership – one of the key themes we picked out at Cannes Lions 2022. As Chrissie Hanson, this year’s Creative Strategy jury president and global chief strategy officer of OMD Worldwide, said during a press conference, ‘The “I hand you the baton, then you continue on the 400-metre relay race” is an old model of working. I'm actually asking you to run it together.’ With the common goal of recycling e-waste, Microsoft and Elkjøp Nordic bridge the divide the physical and digital worlds in which their audiences exist, and transform people’s old devices into a source of value.

Changing tack / As we recently observed in our coverage of Ikea’s Life Collection 2022 campaign, it’s all too easy to criticise when it comes to the climate crisis. People know generally what they should do, but doing it is another matter. So rather than admonish people for contributing to e-waste or hoarding old devices, Elkjøp Nordic highlights the problem and offers an attractive solution with a built-in incentive. As climate adviser and investor Corinne Sawers told Contagious earlier this year, ‘This idea that we both as individuals and as a society have to make big sacrifices or costs, is just bad economics and misunderstands the nature of the problem.’

Instead, she says, behaviour change requires strong incentives. ‘People only change their behaviour if the alternative is cheaper or better, or their friends are doing it. Companies only change their behaviour if they can make more money, or if [what they’re doing is] made illegal… Obviously, there are exceptions, but as a guide for how to achieve that incredibly fast and scaled behaviour change, we have to be realistic about how these different actors in the system work and what incentivises them.’

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