Last August, more than 2.000 conservationists from 90 countries gathered in Montpellier, France, for the 27th International Congress of Conservation Biology (ICCB). Organized by the Society for Conservation Biology, this was the largest biodiversity conservation meeting of the year, with more than 2.000 talks and poster presentations. Amongst the 60 Symposia accepted for this event, there was one innovation as far as social sciences were considered. This ICCB was the first to dedicate a Symposium to the use of marketing tools in biodiversity conservation.
Human behaviour is the driver behind all major threats to the environment. Yet, influencing behaviour remains a major challenge for conservation professionals. Inspired by the increasing adoption of marketing principles in fields such as health, conservation professionals have recently started looking towards marketing techniques to help achieve their goals. However, many are still uneasy about relying on the same principles that are also used to sell ‘bad’ products such as cigarettes and alcohol. Moreover, some may feel that conservation ethic is powerful enough to drive change. However, the current extinction crisis suggests otherwise.
The Symposium brought together conservation academics and practitioners from both the commercial and non-profit sectors, to discuss the application of marketing in supporting conservation projects. Our goal was to reframe what marketing means in the context of conservation, away from the traditional commercial use and towards its adoption as a new path to more effective public engagement. Amongst the speakers was Christiane Lellig, a former ISMA Board Member, who presented on “The power of behaviour change – how to apply social marketing principles to conservation issues”. The Symposium also included amongst others, representatives from the NGOs, Rare and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the commercial advertising agency ZGM Collaborative Marketing and several UK and USA Universities. The topics covered were equally diverse, from wildlife trade and marine conservation, to the use of celebrity endorsements and fundraising for conservation.
The Symposium was very well attended, with the 140 seats available in the room not being enough to accommodate all interested attendees. More importantly, this event reveled a yet untapped interest in conservation and marketing. We hope this may be the first of many future marketing focused events at ICCBs!
Diogo Veríssimo, is a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow and co-organizer of the ICCB 2015 SymposiumConservation Marketing: a new path to understanding and influencing human behaviour, the Co-chair of the SCB Conservation Marketing and Engagement Working Group and one of the initial members of the European Social Marketing Association.
Emma McKinley is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Chichester and is Membership Secretary of the SCB Conservation Marketing and Engagement Working Group.