Silk’s out of home becomes a home for bees

Expanding on a test Danone conducted last year, billboards that double as hives aim to boost a sustainability message that's important to plant-based customers.

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Silk is rolling out billboard “bee hotels” on a larger scale as part of its sustainability positioning.

Last year, Danone Canada and its Silk plant-based brand partnered with the University of Montreal’s entomology lab to turn a Pattison billboard into beehives as part of a pilot project.

The concept is now being brought back for a second year and expanded to two additional cities. As part of an environmental initiative to promote biodiversity, the research team is collecting data on the identity of bee and nesting insect species in urban areas and their general health, the threats they’re face, their origins, and so on.

With the tagline “Buzz-worthy Taste,” the ad campaign will also showcase Silk’s plant-based products while highlighting the presence of the bee boxes. Silk’s new campaign signs will house solitary bee nesting boxes – 30 bee hotels in total, in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal – made locally by Atelier Zabie, a business based in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

The bee story is part of Danone’s purpose-driven ethos and is “fundamental” to how the brand talks about biodiversity. It is also something that really resonates with a plant-based consumer, according to Fiona O’Brien, director of marketing for plant based food and beverages at Danone Canada.

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Danone achieved B Corp status in 2018, meaning that it must act in a way that benefits society more broadly. For example, the company is committed to restoring soil health and is also a member of One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B), whose mandate is to protect and restore biodiversity within company supply chains and product portfolios.

“Sustainability is core to not only the B Corp certification, but also very important to Danone as a whole,” she says. “Our commitment to biodiversity is strong…and is core to who we are as an organization.”

From a sales perspective, health and sustainability are the two biggest factors for getting people to switch to flexitarian or plant-based diets, O’Brien says.

O’Brien tells strategy that over the last few years, while OOH has taken on less prominence within Silk’s advertising mix, the brand this time had an opportunity to do something completely different: to not just advertise but put biodiversity front and centre.

“It’s always exciting when there’s a medium within the mix that you can use in a different way than initially intended,” O’Brien says.

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According to O’Brien, it has designs on further expanding the program – perhaps even involving storytelling initiatives at point of sale – and committing further to issues of sustainability and biodiversity and using all of its levers “to do the right thing.”

The agencies involved were Carl, Wavemaker and National PR.

Danone recently launched its plant-based Nextmilk under its Silk Canada branda plant-based product that mimics the flavour profile and mouthfeel of dairy.