Lessons from WWF’s #EndangeredEmoji campaign

WWF's #EndangeredEmoji Twitter campaign, which prompted the organisation's supporters to donate through tweeting emojis of endangered animals, has sparked 559,000 mentions and 59,000 signups since its launch in May.

The objectives were to increase brand awareness of WWF in key parts of the world and to take its conservation work to a younger audience. Although fundraising was “very much front and centre” in the messaging, WWF viewed it as “an innovation-based campaign” that tested out fundraising on the social platform for the first time.

Speaking on a webinar hosted by Hootsuite, Adrian Cockle, digital innovation manager at WWF International, said the campaign, which saw the charity swap out its panda logo for an emoji panda caused “some controversy” inside WWF, but the team was keen to push through to create buzz around the campaign and engage with its target demographic.

“We created a series of elements around it to promote it, the first and most visible of which caused some controversy internally,” he said. “We are well known for our iconic panda logo that we’ve had for over 50 years [and changing it] caused a bit of chatter and raised eyebrows.”

However, Cockle said that to reach a younger audience, particularly from Southern and Eastern parts of the world, it needed to take a light hearted approach. “You can’t launch a campaign called Endangered Emoji and take yourself too seriously,” he added.

One negative and unexpected result of the campaign, was that influential Twitter users misinterpreted the mechanics of how it worked, which although led to spikes in traction, did little for fundraising outcomes.

For example, a Banksy fan account incorrectly told its 1.3m followers to retweet the campaign without signing up to the initiative. That tweet resulted in 31,000 retweets including from actor Russell Crowe (1.8m followers) and Formula One driver Jenson Button (over 2m followers). As a result there was huge pick up of #EndangeredEmoji that didn’t lead to sign ups.

A key lesson learnt from the campaign noted Cockle was that WWF had to able to find a topic that had a “natural good will” and connect it with emojis that have a very current prevalence. “Changing how we talk to them [target audience] rather than trying to hit them over the head with how we would normally engage on our conservation topics and fundraising [was a key lesson]” he said.

Cockle also offered up advice about working with celebrities and said that if a brand is planning anything mass market on Twitter having influencers lined up already is key, as is keeping the instructions clear and simple to avoid unforeseen problems.

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