If you grew up in the United States, there’s a good chance that you were educated about preventing forest fires by Smokey the Bear. Smokey the Bear first debuted in 1944, following on the heels of Disney’s “Bambi” which had been successful in garnering attention for the dangers of wildfires. Over the years, Smokey’s story developed more and more with the scout hat-wearing bear appearing in radio programs, books, comics and on TV. According to the Ad Council, Smokey’s Forest Fire Prevention campaign has helped reduce the number of acres lost annually from 22 million to 8.4 million. But how much of Smokey’s success was due to the fact that he was a cute, cuddly mascot? Could a marine animal accomplish just as much for ocean conservation as Smokey did for forest fire prevention? Daniel Hayden and Benjamin Dills explore this topic in their article “Smokey the Bear Should Come to the Beach: Using Mascot to Promote Marine Conservation” from Social Marketing Quarterly.
There is an open question among conservation practitioners regarding whether using flagship specifies to market marine conservation is less effective than using terrestrial species in the terrestrial context. A flagship species is a species selected to act as an ambassador, icon, or symbol for a defined habitat, issue, campaign, or environmental cause. A mascot species has many of the same attributes as a flagship species, but is selected for its communications value instead of its ecological value. Our research indicates that mascot species can be as effective a marketing tool for marine conservation as they have been for terrestrial conservation. Based on our study, there is no evidence that the use of marine mascot species or that confront threats based on fishing and harvesting of aquatic resources perform any differently from other social marketing campaigns that address terrestrial issues.
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