AccuList USA helps a number of museums and zoos with marketing to members, donors and visitors. A 2017 report on the U.S. market for museums, historical sites, zoos and parks, worth $14.5 billion annually, noted that some of the most significant changes are occurring in the zoo market. Consumers’ rising concerns about conservation and ethical treatment of animals have been a driving force. As the public loses its appetite for viewing animals in cages, zoos are initiating a new stress on realistic exhibits and conservation–and their marketing is reflecting that shift.
Zoo Marketing Wins by Stressing Conservation and Natural Habitats
A recent Platform Magazine article on the new wave in zoo marketing, noted to its PR-pro readers that the winning zoo marketing strategy seems to lie in finding the middle ground between promoting conservation and creating entertainment. Many zoos do this by creating exhibits that mimic animals’ natural habitats. For example, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, promotes exhibits for jaguars, penguins and grizzly bears, which have won exhibit design awards. Meanwhile, the Houston Zoo not only advertises the fact that it shares part of the money from each ticket with conservation programs but plans to build a new exhibit to showcase the Texas Wetlands, which have a large variety of animal and plant life. The Platform article also cites Zoo Atlanta’s strategy for merging consumer experiences and conservation by promoting its contributions to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) with new animals’ births that help “maintain healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining animal populations within North American zoos.”
Zoos Use Digital Marketing to Stretch Budgets
However, one marketing challenge for nonprofit zoos like Zoo Atlanta is stretching “our limited advertising budget,” Vice President of Marketing and Membership Tracy Lott acknowledges. And digital media investments are one way her zoo stretches those marketing resources. For zoos following Zoo Atlanta’s lead by starting or expanding a digital marketing strategy, Search Influence, a digital marketing agency, suggests five key steps to success. Efforts need to begin with planning, with an emphasis on defining member/donor/visitor profiles for targeting. Then local prospects, loyal members and tourists can be sent the different messaging that will resonate and drive response. Next comes a polished website to showcase attention-getting content and provide a platform for sales and donations, supported by a traffic-building investment in search optimization and paid search. Third, zoos need a curated content-marketing strategy for website, social media and paid digital advertising to promote unique draws, from exhibits and events to conservation and education. Leveraging that great content then requires a targeted digital advertising strategy. Since 90% of time online is spent outside of search, mainly on Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms, one focus should be social media ads with enticing video, graphics and messaging. These ads can be targeted by interests, location, family status, buying behavior and more to boost response. These also can be tied into a multi-channel strategy that includes direct mail; for example, our Digital2Direct program serves Facebook ads to selected “matched” postal records. Finally, to maximize ROI, marketers need analytics with defined KPIs per platform, including use of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to track multiple e-commerce platforms and websites.