Providing Free Content Pays Off – The Story of April the Giraffe

By on April 17, 2017

The small town of Harpursville, NY, is about to get a wave of tourism – all thanks to a family of giraffes at the local zoo.

Over the past few months, a pregnant giraffe named April has been the darling of the internet. Her pregnancy was live-streamed on YouTube by the Animal Adventure Zoo and just this past weekend over 1.2 million viewers (including me!) watched live as she gave birth to a healthy male calf. Currently, the stream is still up where anyone with an internet connection can watch April and her calf hanging out in their pen. 

As a content marketer, I see it not only as insanely adorable, but also a pinnacle example of the good that can come from offering free, interesting content.

The stream offered unlimited access – for free – to not just current zoo patrons but really to any animal lover, giraffe enthusiast, curious learner, zoo aficionado and adorer of baby animals across the country. It was a simple concept that touched all of these different people – people who could also be considered target markets for the zoo.

Quality content attracts attention and traffic

Historically, the small-but-growing Animal Adventure Zoo probably didn’t attract people from far and wide. The zoo is located in a small town with a population of less than 4000 people; the closest city is Binghamton, NY – but that’s a 30-minute drive away, and they already have their own zoo.

Now, because of their compelling digital content, many, many people (including me, again!) are discussing plans to visit Animal Adventure Zoo after it opens for the season in May so they can meet April, her “husband” Oliver, their new baby and his siblings (this calf is April’s fourth) in person.

Giving away quality, free content + audience interest = $$$$$

Besides ad revenue on YouTube, the stream itself isn’t a real moneymaker, but giving away just this one thing led to an avalanche of revenue opportunities for the zoo:

  • A website was established to solicit donations to benefit the care of April and her family. In just 1 month the goal of $50,000 was nearly tripled.
  • The zoo launched a $1.99 app available for Android and Apple devices with animated giraffe stickers and gifs users can share with each other.
  • As the birth drew closer, the zoo established a text alert system. Users could pay to receive text updates so they wouldn’t miss a second of action.
  • Major corporate sponsorships were now on the table – Toys R Us (and its Geoffrey the giraffe mascot) sponsored the later stages of the pregnancy and then appropriately switched to Babies R Us after the birth took place.
  • April has her own ecommerce store with shirts, totes, hats, plush toys, decals and more available for purchase.
  • A fundraiser has been established to name the calf with each vote costing $1. (I myself voted for “Gary.”)

All of this came after releasing one amazing piece of free content. This doesn’t even include the extensive publicity the zoo received, the media attention as employees went on news shows to talk about the giraffes and educate the public, or the inevitable surge in attendance and memberships expected this year.

What can marketers learn?

This wasn’t just about giving away free content – it was about giving away the right piece of free content. A lot of pieces fell into place to skyrocket the popularity of the stream. This content spoke to exactly the right groups of people and delivered exactly the right mix of entertainment and education.

But, once it gained traction, the zoo was quick to seize the opportunity to leverage its newfound publicity to increase revenue and notoriety and to continue to improve its education and conservation efforts.

While we can’t promise you a baby giraffe, Ridge Marketing can help you create compelling content and campaigns that leverage that content to convert prospects into leads and eventually into customers. Talk to us today to get started.

About Ridge Marketing

Ridge Marketing is an agency that specializes in crafting creative digital assets and using websites, search, advertising and email to ensure that the right prospects interact with your brand and become loyal customers.