Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Branding the hairy-nosed wombat

The Australian hairy-nosed wombat bears little resemblance to North American critters, so to describe it, you'd have to compare it to a dog, a bear and a koala rolled into one. Some people are nuts about 'em.

There's a website called "Russell's Wombat Burrow" where you can see lots of photos of wombies and even hear and watch videos of them doing what they do. Which is mostly moseying around and digging in the dirt.

Sadly, the hirsute little fellas are an endangered species. Only 115 remain in a huge preserve in Epping Forest National Park. But wait! A corporation has rushed to the rescue. A Swiss mining company. Wondering how that fits? Well, wombies can dig like maniacs. It's said they can outdig a man. And mining companies dig, so... an unlikely partnership has been forged. And the Swiss are getting into it big-time.

The company, Xstrata, has agreed to contribute millions to the endangered species' recovery. In exchange, the company's name will appear on everything related to wombats: websites, educational DVDs, wildlife workers' shirts. Xstrata top management types will also star in documentaries about the critters and speak at media events. By standing up for the little marsupials, Xstrata hopes to enhance its "green" image.

On their part, environmental officials have had to adjust their thinking about funding. They were operating on a skimpy budget. They needed money to continue their work and create a second wombat colony, and it became clear that voluntary contributions and grants weren't enough. Enter Xstrata. You can read the rest of the story here.

As advertising and marketing adapts to a rapidly shifting media environment, it pays to think in unusual ways. Crazy ways, you might say. Crazy can be good. As Hunter S. Thompson said, "When the going gets tough, the weird turn pro." Be weird. Turn pro. Save a wombat.

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