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Kentucky Roots Campaign

Trees are dying in Kentucky, so the Northern Kentucky Urban & Community Forestry Council (NKUCFC) embarked on a mission to educate Northern Kentuckians on the value of trees and the need for tree planting and proper care. Although they identified a need to cast a broad net to reach the masses, the main focus was placed on reaching low-literacy adults.

With the help of a grant from the US Forest Service, NKUCFC contracted CEL to create an educational campaign to educate and inspire home and property owners in Campbell, Kenton, and Boone counties.

As a company recognized for educational tree campaigns ranging from The Fit Forest in Elgin, Ill. to the award-winning international Trees Pay Us Back campaign, we knew what needed to be done. We needed to appeal to the heart and soul of Kentuckians who have “roots” in the state and compel them to keep trees, and the land, beautiful. With this in mind, the Kentucky Roots – Caring for our trees campaign came to life.


Our greatest challenge was presenting tree benefits and care information to a low-literacy audience in a way that is easy to understand while giving the detail needed to inspire change. Research was required to better understand the level of comprehension of the target market and their ability to take in and retain information.

The size of the implementation budget was also a challenge, so CEL secured a $20,000 sponsorship to increase reach and longevity of the campaign.


We knew that words alone were not enough. We needed to graphically illustrate our educational messages for maximum impact.

Bright colors were used to depict a world with trees, where clean air, water, good health, and community pride are abundant. On the contrasting side, a gray scale design cast a dark shadow on a world without trees where polluted air and water, bad health, and depression result.

Tree care icons were designed to accompany the written words and the messages were circulated across three counties. Vehicles of communication include the Kentucky Roots website, message cards, banners, jerseys, t-shirts, can koozies, temporary tattoos, and on the side of buses. Thousands of people in Northern Kentucky are being educated daily at ballparks, speedways, banks, convenience stores, the zoo, the arboretum, on the radio, and within county extension and literacy network classrooms.

Published on: July 31, 2014