The Power of Philanthropic Marketing: Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder™ Mobile App

Heading for the hills? You might be interested in this little beauty:

In the first place, it’s free. In the second place, it offers you a searchable database of almost every public land in the United States (not America, press release writers, that’s a whole lotta hemisphere). And in the third place, sales benefit four national non-profit organizations – users can vote for Boy Scouts of America, National Wildlife Federation, Outdoor Nation or the Student Conservation Association.

Care to guess the sponsors of this project? Nope, not the government – Ford and L.L. Bean.


Here’s what Oh, Ranger! had to say about their app when it launched:

If you’re thinking of developing a similar tool, note their emphasis on:

  • Comprehensive Data: The database includes thousands of national parks, state parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sites, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recreation areas and, in the most recent incarnation, 50,000 new locations (local and municipal parks).
    • Take the time to assemble your data – it will pay off in the quality of your app.
  • Search Narrowing by Icon: The mobile app developers have designed 30 recognizable silhouettes that display different activity categories – users can click on these to find the most relevant park.
    • If you don’t have too many, icons will help users quickly narrow their choices.
  • Search by Location: Users can search for specific parks or ones that are closest to them. 
    • Geo-targeting is your friend – use it wisely.
  • Important Planning Details: It’s not enough to know where the park is. Park visitors want directions, phone numbers, activity descriptions, seasonality/weather, lodging and concession information, etc. 
    • Think about the “user experience,” not just the user.
  • Connectivity: As the press release points out, many parks have little or no connectivity. So the developers have embedded most of the information. When you’re planning your design, find out where the user will be when they access the app. 
    • Will they have complete coverage?
  • Updated Info: ParkFinder™ is updated constantly, with the most current information is received transparently in the background each time the app is opened. Outdated information is a no-no for modern technology. 
    • Find a way to keep it current.


Okay, I hear you say, but what do free mobile apps about U.S. parks have to do with improving my company’s marketing efforts?

Answer: A bucketload.

  • You’ll note Ford’s prominent logo display.

But it’s not the logo that’s important here:

  • It’s the warm fuzzy feeling (the halo effect) that people associate with Ford when they’re using the app to drive a vehicle made in the United States to a United States park.
  • This is what I call the power of philanthropic marketing – tailor-made projects that benefit the greater good also benefit your long-term brand status.


Still not convinced? What if I told you that L.L. Bean has jumped on the gravy train and developed the L.L. Bean ParkFinder™ app (again hosted by Oh, Ranger!)?

You can see examples of customer reaction in the comments section of their announcement:

  • “The Park Finder is great. I just found a park 13 miles from my home that I never knew existed. Thanks LLB!”
  • “Add yet another reason to love Bean. This is such a great resource. Thank you.”
  • “I love this. I’ve used it twice already. Making some great summer escape plans! Thanks for the outdoors tool!”

The app is just the latest manifestation of L.L. Bean’s “friendly, personal service” mantra. By treating their customers like valued friends, not buying machines, L.L. Bean has been trouncing many of its competitors for years.


If you’re thinking about philanthropic marketing, there’s one big lesson to be learned from ParkFinder™:

Remember to keep mobile apps or online tools focused on your company’s brand personality.


  • Ford manufactures tough, hardy, off-road vehicles that you use to get to the parks.
  • L.L. Bean sells tough, hardy outdoor equipment that you use when tramping through parks.

The stronger the connection with your brand, the stronger the bond with your potential customer.


Need some help with copywriting or imaginative content ideas? I can help. Contact me for a free marketing consultation.

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