Marketing makes music and monkeys work

MONKEYS and music may evoke images of organ grinders on street corners, but clever marketing, corporate investment and a bold new vision for the Perth Zoo means the zoo’s colourful residents increasingly are being used to promote a range of musical and corporate activities.

Already, events like the Commonwealth Bank April Jazz have opened the zoo to a whole new audience, many of whom are visiting the zoo for the first time since they were children.

Perth Zoo chief executive officer Brian Easton said it had been relatively easy to attract corporate investment in the Perth Zoo because, as an institution, the zoo is very public and very important to WA.

“We consciously try to make the zoo available to everyone and enhance the product,” he said.

Building on his experience as Rottnest Island chief executive officer, Mr Easton also is conscious of the value of promoting the zoo as a premier tourist destination for visitors to WA.

The zoo should sit alongside Kings Park and Rottnest Island as a must see for tourists, Mr Easton said.

“They’re important places for WA, we’ve got to look at the WA side and the business side and at the zoo as a growing tourist market. We’re trying to make the zoo a must see,” he said.

The new strategic marketing thrust includes enhancing existing facilities at the zoo and making them available for new activities and new markets.

The series of Sunday afternoon jazz concerts in the zoo gardens has attracted two important new demographics to the zoo – young couples without children and older, retired people who haven’t been back to the zoo since they visited with their children.

The zoo actively promotes itself as a venue for conferences, private functions and special events like the Zoo Snooze – an overnight stay for children.

Mr Easton said a young and imaginative team had been enlisted to explore new activities and marketing strategies to maintain a strong interest in the zoo.

“We have to look at how we can diversify interest in the zoo and keep in mind the number one goal, which is the high profile conservation role for the zoo,” Mr Easton said.

Corporate sponsorship takes on a variety of different forms, from corporations taking naming rights for certain exhibits to sponsorship of individual animals or specific events.

“Corporations have the opportunity of having naming rights – Water Corporation sponsors the Australian Wetlands, Hamersley Iron sponsors the Pebble Mound Mouse and Alcoa sponsors the Brush Tail Phascogale,” Mr Easton said.

Both of these mining companies have selected animals that are native to areas under pressure from industry, including mining and agriculture.

Alinta Gas’ sponsorship of Creatures in the Night allowed people to visit the zoo any time between 9am and 9pm.

The extended opening hours were so successful the numbers though the gate totalled more than three times the projected figures.

“All the zoo staff get behind the project and keepers give talks about the animals. It helps us have a more cohesive workforce,” Mr Easton said.

“We have a small conference centre which works very well and corporations can come in and use a tea break or lunch to go on a stroll through the zoo grounds. Or for cocktail hour they can book the African Savanna or have someone come out with the snakes.”

It’s an ongoing process of maintaining a diverse and dynamic program of events and publicity to keep the Perth Zoo foremost in people’s minds.

Strategies are poached from activities organised by other zoos all over the world, although increas-ingly Perth Zoo is held up as a model of successful sponsorship and marketing for other zoos to copy.

“A third of our operating costs are met by government but sponsorship is a very important contribution. Part of that money we can put straight into enhancing the product,” Mr Easton said.

Commonwealth Bank was interested in how sponsorship could incorporate its staff, and these add-on activities for sponsors make the zoo an interesting alternative to traditional corporate sponsorship of the arts.

The bank organised a zoo safari for its staff, which provided an opportunity to build team skills and show the staff the plants and animals their corporate sponsorship supports.

Commonwealth Bank general manager sales and service WA Andrew Thorburn said Perth Zoo was one of the State’s most important organisations, not only as a great place to visit but also as it played a significant research and conservation role.

“In this sponsorship we have taken a truly holistic approach involving both our customers and our staff in a range of activities and events, all aimed at promoting the value of the zoo,” he said.

“Additionally, we have estab-lished a special facility so that donations to the zoo can be accepted at any Commonwealth Bank branch throughout WA.”

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