Earlier this week, officials from the Everglades National Park and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization got together for a chat about how to better market the park to lure in tourists. As the Miami Herald reports, during the meeting, park Superintendent Dan Kimball said: "We do not have an appropriation for marketing... Our idea of marketing is putting a brown sign on the highway."
Sorry, Mr. Kimball, but brown signs posted along the road aren't going to cut it in this age of guerrilla marketing and viral ad campaigns. As Larry Arnett, president of Fort Lauderdale-based Times Ten Creative Marketing Solutions, puts it, "Our alligators are competing with South Beach, the Kardashians, and P Diddy. That's tough even for a gator."
Here are five wildly successful viral campaigns the park should look to for inspiration and how they can be tweaked to hype up the animals of the Everglades.
The Concept: The movie Chronicle is about three teenagers who acquire superpowers, including the ability to fly. So to promote the movie, three remote-control planes that look like humans were flown around New York City.
How to Tweak for the Everglades: Releasing a few 20-foot-long remote-control machines shaped like Burmese pythons in downtown Fort Lauderdale is guaranteed national news and a sure way to get people talking about the park. But Arnett cautions that "freaking people out" will cause them to keep their distance.
The Concept: To promote its flat-screen LED televisions, electronics giant Samsung collaborated with some sheep herders in Wales and London-based agency the Viral Factory to show off the power of LED lights. It turns out that strapping some lights on the back of sheep is internet gold. This video has garnered more than 16 million views on YouTube.
How to Tweak for the Everglades: Sheep and the verdant hills of Wales have nothing on alligators and South Florida swamps. Let's strap a few sets of these lights on the back of some gators and get an aerial view of the illuminated carnage that ensues.
The Concept: In order to sell the idea that a pair of sneakers can make you jump higher, Nike recruited Kobe Bryant to strap on a pair and leap over a bunch of things, including a speeding car and a pool of snakes. These stunts are clearly fake, as there's no way in hell Kobe's contract would permit such antics. Still, this idea blew up and got millions of views.
How to Tweak for the Everglades: As Arnett explained earlier, "Our alligators are competing with South Beach, the Kardashians and P Diddy." So why not rip this idea off and combine the celebrity star power of Lebron James with the awesomeness of the Everglades ecosystem? First Lebron should jump over a pool of pythons. Then he should race a panther. Lastly, in what would be the utmost display of marketing genius, King James should wrestle in alligator in a Pay-Per-Style death match.
The Concept: Australia decided to take out help-wanted ads across the world for a position that would pay someone $150,000 to live on the islands of the Great Barrier Reef for six months and blog about it. This tactic went above and beyond those typical "Come Visit" ads that tourist destinations are so fond of and sparked an international frenzy among applicants.
How to Tweak for the Everglades: Sorry, but if someone is going to earn $150,000 as a glorified blogger, they need to earn that cash through blood, sweat, and tears -- all of which can be gleaned within a few hours of hiking around the Everglades. The best approach here is to drop off an amateur deep in the heart of the Everglades with limited rations and have him Tweet the entire journey. Hilarity will ensue as dehydration gives way to hallucinations and #EvergladesDeathWish starts to trend.
The Concept: The "Will It Blend" series of videos on YouTube is awesome because it shows the product's ability to destroy lots of different things, from glowsticks to iPads. And if there's one thing people love, it's watching stuff get mercilessly annihilated.
How to Tweak for the Everglades: Arnett says a good marketing campaign for the park will focus on the "coolness of being able to walk on a boardwalk and see 30 alligators just hanging out." While the prospect of seeing alligators is cool, the prospect of seeing alligators devour some unsuspecting prey is irresistible. Therefore, the park should modify the "Will It Blend" concept to "Will an Alligator Eat It." Yes, this goes against Arnett's insistence that it's not good to freak people out, and animal rights activists would have an aneurysm, but the videos would be instant viral sensations.
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