“Don’t tell me to save water, show me how.”

That was the consistent message we received from three separate consumer surveys in metropolitan Phoenix back in 1998.

Interesting that it mirrors the age old writing maxim of “Don’t tell, show.”

So that is exactly what we did in the Water – Use It Wisely campaign, which became the largest water conservation outreach effort of its kind in the world, and is trill thriving today.

Our storytelling device was to take unexpected, but highly effective ways to save water and share them as water-saving tips.


One of my favorites is Water-Saving Device #32. The audience is shown a toothbrush and invited to participate in the story by connecting the dots. How can a toothbrush save you water? It is an environmental prompt to remind you to turn off the water while you brush your teeth, you can save approximately four gallons per minute. That’s 200 gallons a week for a family of four.

We created more than 150+ water-saving devices and techniques, which underscored our campaign theme: There are a number of ways to save water, and they all start with you.

The campaign launched in Mesa, AZ in 1999. Because of its universal message and clever storytelling, it grew to include more than 400 private and public utilities that co-branded the campaign and ran it in their areas, making it the largest water conservation outreach effort of its kind in the world.

When organizations were doing their due diligence about using the Water – Use It Wisely campaign, they would often say, “Well, it might work in the desert, but I doubt it’ll work in the Pacific Northwest.” Or the Northeast, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Georgia. But when they tested the campaign with focus groups from all of these regions, Water – Use It Wisely tested significantly higher in relevance and attractiveness among the participants.

I think it is because the campaign features a universal message of water stewardship delivered in a story structure that everyone can relate to.

Another benefit of business storytelling, even in the nonprofit and cause marketing world, is that it helps with SEO. Search “water conservation” on any browser, and you will find Water- Use It Wisely commanding one of the top three organic search positions. We have held those spots since 2000.

Water - Use It Wisely Website

Visit wateruseitwisely.com and dive into the story of how water conservation starts with you. Then imagine how you can use brand storytelling for your business, organization or cause.

Our goal with the Business of Story, is to help you advance your personal and professional initiatives further, faster through the power of story.