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You have probably encountered a TV infomercial with an irresistible final offer to buy this “one” thing which in turn allows you to buy that “other” thing for a fraction of the original price? And once you are already hooked on the deal, reaching for the phone to call the number from the TV screen the infomercial enters into a legendary extension: ”But wait… there is more; if you place your call in the next 30 minutes, you also get the “third” thing, completely free of charge!” In most cases, the extra “third” thing has nothing to do with the main product and the pinned offer but helps justify shopping by turning the experience into a real special deal. We may not need the final product, but it’s free! How on Earth is one supposed to resist such an offer? There is no turning back now…

The foregoing scenario was the first thing that popped into my mind when I read some time ago that on 31 January 2019 Beyonce invited her 120 million+ Instagram followers to switch to a specific plant-based diet. This invitation was minted by a promise of a free ticket for every concert she and Jay-Z organize from this point on – for one of the lucky fans making the switch. The call is open until 22 May – which essentially meant that even if you had any qualms about changing your nutrition, the fact that the shift to a plant-based diet is rewarded by a life-long (yours or theirs) access to Beyonce and Jay-Z’s concerts, the choice is simple: plant-based diet it is! Makes perfect sense, right?

Let’s use a magnifying glass for a second and check the fine print of this irresistible infomercial-like offer. The invitation was actually a marketing campaign aimed at promoting “Greenprint” movement and attracting as many followers as possible. Greenprint was initiated by Marco Borges, CEO and founder of “22 Days Nutrition” – a company co-owned by none other than Jay-Z and Beyonce who turned vegan in 2013. Marco Borges has been pioneering the healthy lifestyle and promoting veganism for over 20 years. Aside from authoring several bestsellers dealing with the latter topics, his global outreach in promotion of the healthier life allowed him to actually life-coach many celebrities from the entertainment industry.

So, two birds killed with one stone. Beyonce and Jay-Z used their world-wide fame to boost their business interest and profits of “22 Days Nutrition” while at the same time provided an additional reason for all the vegetarians, vegans and meatless-diet aficionados or soon-to-become meat-free individuals to join and enlarge their fan army. From that particular perspective, this campaign is far from novel or groundbreaking. This is probably the reason why it initially reminded me of that well-known TV infomercial deal. Nonetheless, the first impression here may just be misleading. While the format may not have undergone severe changes, the substance has – profoundly so. This is a stellar example of a new wave in marketing campaign communication.

At the time when number of media channels was limited and communication went only one way (one-to-many), the purpose of every commercial media was to gather the largest audience possible. The number of people watching was a product in itself that media was selling to the advertisers. It was the task of advertisers to persuade as many people as possible to buy their product, going so far as to “bribe” customers with larger discounts and freebies. It goes without saying that getting a freebie is interlinked with the purchase of the main product.

Today, when every person is a media channel, communication is multi-directional (many-to-many), dispersing the attention of the buyer. This means that the aim of the communication is to engage the consumers with a topic of interest, a narrative they can be a part of, and only then offer the product that functionally fits the wider picture.

Let’s take a closer look at the Greenprint campaign lead by Beyonce. There is no apparent offer to buy a product that is essential to your survival, only an offer to get something for free without purchasing something in return. And the thing offered resonates deeply with the million-strong army of Beyonce’s fans. To properly enter the lottery and win the prize, however, one must put in a bit of effort. Firstly, one must visit the Greenprint project website and choose a meal plan in order to participate in the draw. The choice is layered – one can opt to become fully vegetarian or gradually incorporate meatless meals (for example, go vegetarian for breakfast) or pinpoint a day of the week when no meat will be consumed (Meatless Monday).

Whichever plan you choose, you become eligible for the prize – getting a lifelong access to Beyonce and Jay-Z’s concerts. The plan you opted for at the Greenprint website comes with additional information and directions on how best to achieve the set goals as well as monitoring support of your progress and implementation.

Of course, the shift to eating less meat is beneficial for both you and the planet. In line with modern marketing trends, the strategy of this campaign encompassed a prominent notion of social responsibility. Anyone who joins the Greenprint movement is participating in saving the planet Earth. The website depicts quite vividly what each individual contribution is when you opt for one meal plan or the other – either choosing only certain meals to be meatless or going fully vegan. You will also be informed on your contribution to the lives of those who live in poverty if you spend 3, 5 or 10 years as a vegetarian.

We analyzed what each and every person who wanted to get into the lottery for the prize gets after registering with the Greenprint website. This much is clear at this point. But the question that remains is what do Greenprint, Beyonce and Jay-Z get? Here is the top 3 list:

  • First, gathering millions of healthy lifestyle supporters and plant-based nutrition fans into a tribe, as well as access to their personal data that is used for creating detailed profiles whose value increases daily when the topic and purpose are defined clearly and precisely;
  • Second, a mechanism to monitor daily activity of the tribe, which in turn enables specific profiling over time, increasing steadily the value of the data collected.
  • Third, defining the relevant market for direct sales of the product pertaining to plant-based nutrition and healthy lifestyle.

Getting a bit lost in translation? Let’s explain this in marketing value terms. Everyone who registers at the Greenprint website becomes a miner, mining its own data, allowing for such data to be used by the owners of the mine, to pack, repack and sell it on the market. At the same time, the jolly slaves become a part of the algorithmic analysis and their interaction, habits and activities within one larger topic are directed, nudged and guided to such an extent that the updated user profiles only further increase in value, bringing in larger profits. In addition, each and every one of the users registered will gain access to a supplement, protein product, organic product, vitamin water or something else that feeds into a lifestyle chosen at the outset, only further boosting the profit margins of their masters.

People used to fight for a bigger wage and slaves rebelled against those who oppressed them and chained them. It seems that the tide has changed nowadays – we willingly subjugate ourselves, we pay to be used, we shop on someone else’s command and we do all of that with a smile on our face.

Greenprint is a great example of the shift that occurred in defining goals of a marketing campaign. The primary focus now is not to sell a product to the consumer, but to turn the consumer into a product without him even feeling it. And to end with an adaption of the infamous catch phrase: “All you need to do is to register, we are taking care of everything else.”

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