Have you ever seen this particular panda? Of course you have! It is famous! Not only because of the cuteness of panda bears but also because of the master minds behind this particular one.
Globally recognized, this logo glorifies one of the best examples of Integrated Marketing Communications: World Wildlife Fund, best known as WWF.
This conservation organization has positioned itself globally by generating brand awareness through various types of media. The techniques utilized by WWF manage to cover every customer touchpoint, reaching large audiences in every corner of the globe.
By evaluating the strategies of WWF’s communication, we can classify their advertising as both emotional and cognitive:
- Emotional: WWF knows that the target audience cares for nature, and what better way to touch people’s sensible fibres than with cute fluffy animals in the picture!
- Cognitive: due to the nature of the causes that WWF supports, its communication is aimed at informing the audience. In general, their messages inform about two basic elements:
- An update or background of the situation, for example: a species being on danger of extinction and why.
- Impacts or possible ways of helping each cause, for example: natural reserve areas sustained from donations.
With that in mind, we can classify their ads as two-sided cognitive ads, because they mention the negative side of the situation. Their “products”, in origin, offer a solution for an existing problem through the fund’s initiative; hence, their communication can also be considered as drama ad.
According to Keller, the processing of any communication effort is defined by two aspects: intensity and direction, which means, the elements that draw attention and the number of effects generated on the audience, from thoughts to feelings. WWF campaigns catch the attention of the audience with mainly visual elements and informative aspects that generate intense feelings and judgement. These outcomes help to define the future outcomes of later communication efforts as well. These thoughts and feelings remain linked to the brand in the consumer’s mind, generating brand association.
WWF uses a broad variety of media to reach the market, from printed to social, as a mean to increase brand awareness and eventually, funding, which for this type of institution can be considered as the feedback provided by the receiver, due to the fact that donating represents an engagement from the receiver in the form of action-taking and is also a measurable impact of the communication effort.
One of the many techniques utilized by WWF is Direct Marketing. Through this type of media, the organization can make great use of personalized approaches to the audience. For example, back in 2002, in some European countries, WWF emailed an informative kit to the supporters of a project to protect a species of leopards that was in danger. Once the supporters would register their interest, they would receive through mail a package containing further information on the cause, along with visual elements such as pictures and factsheets.
This type of media, Direct Marketing, allows for great targeting and personalization capacity, by customizing the message according to the receiver. The power of individualized communication also reduces the breach between reach and response by controlling the stimulus and measuring the response in a faster and more accurate manner.
However, as in life in general, not always is everything nice and pretty; all the opposite, bad decisions are constantly being made in the Marketing world and it can happen even to the best, like it did to WWF.
Context: year 2009, WWF Brasil. In an attempt to generate consciousness over climate change, WWF Brasil approves a pitch from the marketing communications agency DDB Brasil. Even though the newspaper ad is not to be printed yet, it is submitted for an external advertising competition, therefore being shared outside the headquarters and eventually becoming viral. The content of the ad creates intense disturbance in the audience. Judge for yourself:
Due to the constant pressure to achieve top reach and frequency, corporations can sometimes find themselves in the risky position of trying too hard to draw people’s attention, “no-matter-what” (Belch et al. 2014, p. 183). WWF sure generated significant impact… but not a positive one. In IMC, this is considered as noise, the interference or interruption of the message at any part of the process. In this case, the noise was generated from the negative preconception in the receiver’s mind related to both catastrophic events, which damaged the message-decoding step.
We gain the most knowledge from our biggest mistakes, so what lessons can we learn from this? Based on the process of IMC, this extremely negative consequence could have been avoided by implementing a concept testing prior to sharing and before even approving the design. Also, the better positioning of the brand, the lower the impact of the downfall. With WWF having such a strong positioning, brand awareness and positive brand association, the incident was soon “forgiven” by the audience, something that would not be the same for low-recalled brands.
Georgina Pina Sevilla