TigerTrail was full of activities.
What was actually achieved as a result of all activities?
Did it all work out well?
Insight: lack of unity
Tiger Trail itself has hardly worked together in a structured manner with other NGOs. That in itself has led to one of the most important insights arising from Tiger Trail.
The landscape of groups, organizations, interest groups, NGOs, governments and other parties that want to save the tiger is so diverse that you see the forest through all the trees. One person jokingly told me that there are more groups that want to save the tiger than there are tigers in the wild.
So many support is not bad at all but what is questionable is that they are all doing the same without them paying attention to what is happening around them. They have their own objectives, their own programs, their own ways of fundraising, their own publications and their own way of working. And this all leads to (at least) two effects.
- Many people who might have something to do with nature, become saturated with all well-meant initiatives and stop showing interest.
- Money and energy is wasted because everyone is fighting for their own “right to exist”.
At the beginning we put a strong emphasis on social media. We made great plans for social media to send out the message to save tigers. To say it bluntly, we failed. For several reasons. First of all we had a very optimistic picture of our expectations. Additionally, the lack of a decent connection in a lot of countries played an important role. Because of this an important component in the strategy -broadcasting short videos about Tiger Trail on our own TV channel (5-minute channel)- could not be executed. We also underestimated how it would be like to do everything at once. Traveling, blogging, photography, make appointments, interview people, to speak to media etc. We missed several opportunities for publicity because of this.
On the other side, we accomplished a lot. Because we aborted the social media strategy quite early (after which we used Facebook and Twitter only as an information medium), we created extra time to intensify our activities to get in touch with traditional media. That has resulted in many publications in several Asian countries, with interviews (even on prime time) on Russian TV, several radio interviews and articles in various magazines (including Russia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Kazakhstan). Tiger Trail was also been highlighted in numerous newspapers (from Dubai to Spain, from Russia to Iran and India to Thailand).
Taking everything into account we are pleased with our results: we reached our publicity goals.
Did we achieved more than we could have imagined? Yes.
Could we have gotten more? Yes.
But despite this feeling of success, we are not euphoric. Even not satisfied. Because there is so much more to help tigers to survive.
Another way of thinking
At any given time, in Seoel (South Korea) to be precisely, where I was slowing down a bit after a long period of intense traveling, I came up with an idea. The idea seems to have been conducted by other NGOs before but mine is different.
I realized – already much before Seoel- that businesses don’t play an active role in taking up responsibilities if it comes to nature. Lots of organizations let their customers and stakeholders believe they are a “corporate social responsible” company. But the truth is that only a couple of corporations are really living up their promises.
In Seoul I reflected on some things and was amazed by the indifference of the more than 130 listed companies that I asked for help during my preparations. One of them found it necessary to strengthen his refusal by saying that he did not want to pay for my holiday. Also I was astonished by the fact that companies I had contacted and that have a commercial tie with the tiger – like using the tiger in a logo or in the name of the brand (like Tiger Beer) or its use in marketing (think of Esso). Also from them I got no replies. I didn’t like their behavior and I thought about it in Seoel. And I came to the conclusion that I thought it was really unfair.
To register the tiger as a logo or as brand is legally impossible because it is a part of our everyday language. This legal hindrance didn’t stop many companies to use the power of the tiger. I suspect that in the whole world at least 1,000 companies are using the tiger in their branding or their marketing. When I started writing these brands down, I came up with a list of at least 50 companies (only in the Netherlands). Research told me the tiger is being commercially used in many countries, but with their ‘local’ name, like harimau, tigra or tigre. But also think of viagra, which means tiger in Sanskriet.
I see the tiger as one of the most powerful brands on earth. More powerful than Apple, McDonalds or Microsoft. If someone would have been able to register the brand ‘tiger’ one hundred years ago, this brand nowadays had at least 1000 companies now have to pay an incredible amount of money to use the brand tiger.
Just think about real brands like Apple, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and McDonalds. All these brands are not so old. But very powerful because of all the money put in to build the brands. And all powerful brands are protected strongly. If somewhere in the world a little shop is opening with the name McDonalds, then lawyers are will knock on the doors instantly. But not with tigers. Tigers are outlawed commercially.
A brand has become so important to companies that they carefully manage. So if you somehow can use a “carrier” that will make your brand instantly gain a preferential position in the mind of a potential consumer, why would you ignore that if you have the chance? The tiger, like the lion, the shark, the rhinoceros and the elephant (like several other endangered animals) have status and prestige. For centuries. The king of the jungle, the lord of the jungle, the big-5 and many other denominations confirm this status.
The tiger as a premium brand? Yes, as a premium brand the tiger has everything. It has a powerful name, a great logo and what many people tend to underestimate, it has a huge mystery. All this makes the tiger is the most appealing animal from the animal kingdom.
Conservationists around the world, whether they work at NGOs or governments, have one thing in common: they need a lot of money to do what they want to do. And before I started this journey I gave myself an assignment: is it possible to turn nature into a money maker instead of a cost center?
And in Seoul I realized: no one has ever ‘claimed’ the domains of nature. And this is exactly the difference. Someone can do this and start building structural partnerships with companies that commercially use elements of nature.
A crucial change in thinking.