Bristol Zoo’s Gorilla Marketing

Piers Gibbon with Wow! Gorilla statue in London

Any reader of this blog has to be familiar with the concept of “guerrilla marketing,” which uses unconventional marketing techniques to spread a message to consumers in unsuspecting ways and in unsuspecting places. It’s unlikely, however, that anyone has taken the idea as quite literally as Bristol Zoo.

For the 175th anniversary of the zoo, they decided to do something a little different: gorilla marketing. The zoo commissioned 60 artists, many of whom were well-educated advertisers with PhDs in marketing, to create life-size gorilla sculptures, which would be placed around the city of Bristol, England this past summer. Each sculpture was designed to promote the zoo, and its anniversary, in a unique way.

A Bristol-based design studio, which goes by the simple moniker “375,” took the most unconventional approach of them all. The company drew inspiration their from butcher shops, which typically section and label animals based on the cuts of meat which come from each specific part of that animal’s body. But instead of highlighting the cuts of meat that come from the typical gorilla, the company decided to highlight some important and disturbing facts about the illegal bushmeat trade, which has long been established in many parts of the African continent.

But even that idea wasn’t unique enough for the designers at 375. They decided to take it a step further and bring their gorilla alive by making it responsive to the outside weather conditions as well as human touch. To achieve this, they painted over the bushmeat trade facts with a heat-sensitive, liquid crystal back paint. When the summer sun came out to play, the paint would change from black to a stark white color, which revealed the black text written underneath it. Throughout the day, as the sun moved and different portions of the gorilla got heated, different facts became visible.

via Ged Palmer

Plus, because the paint was reactive enough to respond to human touch, those with added curiosity could touch the gorilla sculpture and reveal all of the messages written on it. This type of  human interaction made it a natural draw for Bristol residents, and the statue garnered quite a bit of attention. It not only raised interest in the zoo itself, but brought awareness to an issue that affects the very animals used to market it.

The ultimate goal of the zoo’s gorilla sculpture program, known as “Wow! Gorillas,” was to raise money for gorilla conservation work throughout the world. Each sculpture was auctioned off after the marketing campaign was retired at the end of the summer, and proceeds were donated to various funds around the world that are working to ensure the long-term safety, stability, and integrity of the gorilla population in Africa. All told, the zoo auctioned off 60 sculptures for a total of £427,000. The heat-sensitive gorilla project brought in a respectable £5,000 just on its own, which the designers at 375 widely consider a great return on their efforts. The project was relatively easy, using just marker felt pens and heat-sensitive paint, and they consider their expense and experience to be well worth the charitable contributions that it attracted for gorilla conservation funds.

More photos can be seen here.

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