I was in Noe Valley in San Francisco yesterday, and was surprised to see a handful of "Community-created" "These Come From Trees-style" reminders next to paper towel dispensers, napkin holders, and what not.
I have to be honest, I was pretty impressed by the level of artistry involved in some, and seeing them next to a These Come From Trees sticker made me really appreciate the difference between something that is designed for mass reproduction and scale (that is, the These Come From Trees sticker) and something that is done as a custom, one-off design.
I think both approaches really have their place and are valuable, and we've always said from the get go that when going through the design process of the These Come From Trees sticker, we kept store/coffee shop/restaurant owners in mind as much as possible.
Beyond even realizing that a friendly remind can help people reduce their unintentional overuse of paper product, not everyone has the time, skills, or inclination to go and create a custom-designed reminder.
If you do, though, wow, more power to you! But if you don't, then it's nice to have another option, like the These Come From Trees stickers.
I guess, not to get all "business school" on this topic, it's a classic "build versus buy" issue.
Variations on a Theme
Some of the approaches taken in the signs were interesting to note, because they diverged, or cranked up, elements that we have in the These Come From Trees sticker.
The first one pictured above was interesting, because it thanked customers for conserving napkins, not really making an overt environmentalism argument, beyond the term "conserving" which connotes that, and the cute little birdie. There's no explicit connection between the napkins and the environment--but I think the message gets across just fine. Plus, that's a cute little bird.
This second one was also interesting, because it took a more stern tone. It was at a Starbucks on 24th street--and clearly was present with the blessing of the Starbucks employees, because it looked like it had been there for a while.
It was more overt, because it correlated paper towels and trees (which is obviously something that the These Come From Trees sticker does), but it also makes a strong instruction to the reader to "Please take only what you need."
And really, I don't think that's over the top. It's certainly more vocal than the These Come From Trees stickers, but I don't think it goes too far. Plus, because of the neat graphic on the sign, of the tree embedded in the towel.
That is, it's nothing like the tragedy of a sign at San Francisco airport, that we talked about previously when describing the differences between "Ask versus Tell" and how a nice reminder, in situations where the viewer/reader has choice whether to comply or not, will win out over a stern admonition.
It was also neat to see that the person had laminated the sign as well: something that we discovered in our initial alpha testing at my house--paper stickers don't like cleaning solution! This is why These Come From Trees stickers are laminated. We don't want them to turn into nasty-looking graffiti, because that doesn't help anyone.
Get Viral to Get Out There
One thing that really stood out while looking at these custom signs, was that they didn't have the secondary, viral call to action that the These Come From Trees stickers do.
That is, the message in addition to "Hey, don't forget, these come from trees, my friend" is aimed at people who want to dig deeper. That is "Help spread the word. Get yours at thesecomefromtrees.com"
That call to action, of course, coupled with the publishing and hosting platform afforded by Blogger, and the payment platform service afforded by Paypal, is what really makes this project interesting, in my opinion, because it's self sustaining through that viral message.
Every day we get a couple hundred visitors to the site, and because we have Google Analytics set up, we see how they get here. About 50% come either by keying in "thesecomefromtrees.com" straight into their browser, or by doing the same in Google.
The offline+online component has really made this more than just a plaything, but instead something that could be much bigger, of which I'll do my best to blog about soon.
And that doesn't have to do with us so much as with YOU, all the people who come visit this site, email it around, join our Facebook group, and get stickers of your own for your community.