The sturgeon had a lot of things stacked against them in their fight for survival, despite all kind of international trade sanctions attempting to limit their rapid population demise: the females of the species are the carriers of the coveted black caveat, which fetches ridiculous amounts of cash on the market, they take a long time to mature, so populations don't replace quickly, they compete for clean water with huge corporations and governments wanting to drill and dump in the oil-rich area, and finally, they are not cute.
(photo from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sturgeon2.jpg)
Huh? Yes, I said it. Sturgeons are not cute, and therefor not that many people are moved to save them (aside from the super rich who can afford black caviar I suppose). At least this is the theory behind an innovative new "Save the Sea Kittens" social media campaign recently launched by PETA.
The basic premise? People don't care as much about saving fish, as say, kittens, because most fish, are not cute and cuddly. People's heart go out to cute little kittens who are suffering-we want to cuddle them, and have them curl up on our laps and save them. Can't really do that with a fish, but, at least as far as PETA is concerned, fish need just as much help as kittens do. So, what if we were to change how people perceive fish? What if we could connect the warmth people feel toward small cuddly kittens to fish everywhere? Ta-da! The Sea Kittens campaign.
I have to say, this is a very clever approach. And fairly well executed: the site is a case study in "Social Media Campaigns 101:"
- Dedicated campaign with it's own branding? Check
- Avitars? Check
- Personalization/visitor involvement? Check (you can create your own Sea Kitten and write a story about him/her)
- Attempt at Viral? Check (those Sea Kitten avitars can be placed on other personal sites), you can also send it off to friends
- Engagement/Involvement techniques? Check, check. There is a petition, clear call to action, not so loud, but present call to give $$
- Since I got this link from a friend roughly 10 days ago, I have been keeping an eye on the top right hand corner of the site, where it tracks the number of people who have signed the "save the Sea Kittens" petition. And while the number has more than double since I first started keeping score, at just over 5,000 signature this isn't exactly a viral slam dunk, especially if we were to consider what I assume would be a fairly sizable investment in designing this campaign. However, it is picking up speed (viral campaigns often require that tipping point to turn from a sneeze into a full blown virus), so it may be early yet
- In another ominous sign that the campaign, while cute, may be totally missing the mark with its intended audience was when I searched for "Sea Kittens" on Facebook, and the first three groups that came up were groups dedicated to making fun of the whole Sea Kitten concept, with names such as "Sea Kittens Are Delicious"!
- I found a very similar pattern on YouTube: lots of people mocking the campaign! Not a good sign
But the real question is: who was PETA trying to target with this campaign and what were the metrics it was hoping to achieve? New emails? Dollars? Stirring up a discussion (that has certainly happened).So the moral of the story: for one thing, this campaign makes a clear point that most of us fundraisers already know--regardless of your tactics, how you say something to your donors maybe sometimes be more important than what you are actually saying.
The second moral of the story? Gen Yers, as I've noted many times before, are certainly not afraid of sounding off, so when massaging a message, just remember it will sound back to you from every corner of the World Wide Web.
Personally, I was touched by the idea. I don't think I'll ever stop eating fish (mmm, sushi), but it certainly made the point with me that just because fish aren't cute like my cat, doesn't mean I should stop caring what happens to them.