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Branding Blog

Of Pandas and Marketing


Pandas! Pandas everywhere! All 1,600 of them, travelling through Malaysia, bringing attention to the bear’s plight and the art of creative conservation, courtesy of World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Its impact has been nothing short of pandemic (I had to refrain from being punny). All papier-mâché pandas have been sold at RM150 a pop, with proceeds going to WWF Malaysia.

As a cause that began in 2008, WWF and artist Paulo Grangeon of France has been successfully expanding this campaign for 5 years running, touring to Netherlands, Italy, Hongkong, Germany and many, many other places.

What has lead to the success of this campaign? Why are we all so intrigued with this movement?

Besides the inherent cuteness of the pandas, the success of this campaign, we believe, comes from one very vital aspect: the marketing is built into the product.

The promotion aspect of the marketing is inherent in the 1,600 pandas themselves. And in this regard, there was power in numbers.

A thousand over papier-mâché pandas standing around a single venue is nothing short of buzz worthy. It is its self-promoting ability that allowed it to garner such great success.

That got us thinking about other projects that had similar strategies and what we can learn from them.

Another great example of a product bursting with marketing magic was the Pet Rock. Pet Rock was a collectible conceived in 1975 by advertising executive Gary Dahl.

The idea was to create the perfect pet; one that needn’t be walked, fed, nor groomed. This simple brief gave birth to the Pet Rock – and as the name describes so aptly, is a rock fashioned as a pet.

No one in his or her right mind would think of introducing a lifeless, inanimate, object into the pet industry. Yet, by 1976, a year after it’s conception, Gary Dahl became a millionaire, selling over 1.5 million Pet Rocks.

So what can we gather from these seemingly simple yet radical marketing schemes that gained so much traction?

What both these products have in common, that we refer to as built-in marketing, is that they both have a story to tell. Their ‘why’ is so strong that the story itself serves as the vehicle for their promotion.

The pandas told the story of the dwindling number of their species that still exist in the wild. The pet rock told the story of our desire for the perfect pet.

These stories are so simple yet so captivating, that the consumers become the platform for its own advertising, through word of mouth.

It’s clear that the ‘adopters’ of these pandas wouldn’t have forked out RM150 if you had just told them that the money was for wildlife conservation. It was the manifestation of this story into a tangible product that led to its success.

But it was the story, first and foremost, that spurred the creation of the product.

So the next time you want to advertise, communicate or create, remember that the storyand reason behind it is just as important as your item itself. And how you tell that story, well, that’s a whole different article we’ll save for next time.

What story is your brand telling?

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