Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Kids Today Do Not Know Your Environmental Icon

A coworker recently cited Woodsy Owl as an example of an environmental household brand name. I have a Woodsy Owl t-shirt. Recently …
Late-teens-ish worker at fish and chips shack: Great shirt!

Me: Thanks!

Him: I love South Park.

Me: What?

Him: That episode where the guy in the owl costume molests kids was hilarious!

Me: Oh, I didn’t see that one. Woodsy Owl was a public service campaign back in the ‘70s and ‘80s who told kids not to litter.

Him: Really? Wow, I had no idea it was a real thing!

Me: (dies of old age)
Environmentalists have done a lousy job maintaining or replacing childhood icons. Past generations have had Woodsy, Smokey Bear, Ranger Rick, The Lorax, and Captain Planet, but I couldn't name one who's come along in the last 20 years. Of that list, who would today's kids be able to identify?

Part of it is the era - in this age of multimedia ad saturation, campaigns are now run and replaced rather than maintained long enough to reach iconic status.

For government agencies, part of it is budgetary - the U.S. Forest Service, which produced Woodsy Owl, now spends most of its money on fighting fires thanks to Congressional budget-cutting and worsening global warming.

And for nonprofits, there's the challenge of generationally split audiences. Design a new campaign for today's children and older donors may not be willing to support something unfamiliar. Design a campaign based on an older icon and you may please older donors but fail to connect with today's kids.

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