Chicago Change Location


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How Data Helped Transform Lincoln Park Zoo

Kelly Meissgeier and Lisa Sobilo share how data and analysis informed the zoo’s new vision.

To Chicago-area residents, Lincoln Park Zoo is a familiar destination, known for being one of only a few free-admission zoos in the U.S. But few know about the zoo’s powerful conservation, science, education, animal care and welfare work happening both in Chicago and around the globe.

To bridge this gap, the zoo has launched its first change in branding in more than 20 years. And at the heart of its transformation was two years of data research, analysis and creative work by Frequency 540, now Ardent. Ardent is a search-based data and analytics firm that was acquired with the appointment of Leo Burnett North America CEO Andrew Swinand and now makes up part of the agency’s latest, unified data offering, The Core.

Reflecting the zoo’s mission to connect people with nature, the rebrand features a new brand vision, logo and tagline: “For Wildlife. For All.” These new creative elements then came to life in the zoo’s new activation, Wild Horizons, an interactive digital experience about conserving wildlife in an urbanizing world.

To learn more about the project, we caught up with Analytics Manager Kelly Meissgeier, who served as the analytics lead and managed all of the segmentation research, brand awareness and brand affinity research; and Strategy Director Lisa Sobilo, who led strategy for the development of the zoo’s tagline, visual identity, messaging, off-grounds brand tracking research and launch activation.

How did data drive the creative vision behind the project? What kind of data insights did you find?
KM: Data and analysis were key to all of the work at the front end of the project. Data supported and built a new vision and fueled the strategy and creative behind the new brand launch. Specifically, we conducted segmentation research to identify and prioritize audience groups that best fit the zoo’s marketing objectives. We conducted research to benchmark the zoo’s current level of awareness and affinity, on which they’ll evaluate the success of their marketing initiatives.

LS: Data helped us uncover the intersection between what fueled the brand and what moved their audience, both individually and as a whole. When we discovered how much humans benefit from sharing the world with wildlife, we knew we had hit upon something that could help us create a compelling rebrand.

How is this data-driven insight reflected in the branding itself?
KM: The segmentation research identified the audiences the zoo wanted to target moving forward. Additional awareness and affinity research allowed us to better gauge those audiences’ current views, understandings and perceptions of the zoo. We used that data to prioritize marketing activities and tailor our messaging and creative to those audiences.

LS: The new branding embodies the interconnection of people, plants, and animals, as well as the potential for us all to thrive if we look out for the wildlife around us.

How can a rebranding like the one at Lincoln Park Zoo help other brands with their messaging?
KM: Rebranding the zoo allowed the organization to step back and reevaluate more than just their day-to-day operations. They decided fundamentally what their vision was, how they were going to work toward achieving that vision, in the short and long term, and how they wanted to communicate that shift to the public. The zoo hadn’t assessed for a long time what it was that they really wanted to accomplish in the next 100 years. It has allowed them to identify what they truly want to achieve as a zoo and, ultimately, create a fresh, rebrand with new messaging and creative elements that will resonate with current and potential donors, members and visitors.

LS: For Lincoln Park Zoo, the rebrand was an opportunity to rally the organization around a singular, earnest vision. Once that work was done, their vision become the guiding light in conversations around how to express different facets of the brand to different audiences.

What part of this project touched you the most?
KM: Being in data and analysis, I of course loved the research; but what I loved most about this research is the insight it gave us into current members, donors and visiting audiences that inspired the zoo’s new vision. It was really that vision that allowed the zoo to rally behind this work and see the impact they can truly have. It also inspired all of the rest of the creative work we did. The new creative work looks so fresh and engaging. I love it.

LS: I loved the opportunity to nerd out on all the amazing work this organization does. Come to Lincoln Park Zoo with me and I will tell you more than you ever wanted to know!

May 1, 2017