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From  Issue
9 June 2002
Marketing 101 For Animal Rights Activists & Vegans

By Brenda Shoss - [email protected]

Coca Cola. Budweiser. PETA. Yep, PETA. Whatever your opinion of the animal rights titan -- People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals has become a household brand name. Even your Republican in-laws recognize PETA as a buzz word for animal advocacy.

In one form or another, all non-profits and businesses could benefit from a bit of PETA-like public relations. As animal rights/vegan momentum accelerates, organizations need to keep pace with the expanding consumer market. Yet many enterprises are overwhelmed by the financial magnitude of a professional marketing plan. Ad agencies, freelancers, photographers, illustrators or writers will periodically work at reduced rates for charitable causes. Any group or business can implement a few Marketing 101 tools to enhance its image.

Two key components must be in place when an organization places products or principles before the public eye: 1. A visually consistent presence, and 2. A clear call to action.

Invest in a sophisticated logo that shapes the public's perception of your message or merchandise. A logo is the cornerstone for ongoing recognition. With repeated use, it becomes synonymous with your group's mission. Logos should appear on business forms, print or TV ads, websites and other promotional vehicles.

Develop a signature look for all display materials. A custom concept may be as simple as maintaining logo, layout, and fonts throughout a campaign. For example, if variously sized print ads are to appear in multiple publications, all should incorporate the same memorable "gimmick." A uniform promotion might utilize a handwritten-style headline and textured frames around photos. Or, all key words might appear in reverse (white letters on colored background). The creative possibilities are endless. But once you unveil your ingenuity -- commit to it for all related publicity. Haphazard marketing only boggles the average reader who possesses a three-second attention span.

Include a clear call to action. Is your goal to recruit members, encourage action, sell goods, or advertise an event? Once you have determined your main objective, draw people in with a striking photo or illustration and to-the-point headline. To avoid a negative reaction, never overload AR/vegan ads with too much required reading or accusatory copy.

Determine who you want to reach. Does your target market have a specific age range, political bias, income/education level, or gender? Research which publications, geographic regions or mediums (print, mail, billboard, TV, radio, internet) cater to your desired demographic.

Next, develop a media itinerary. For maximum response to recruitment or product-sale appeals, ads or mailers ought to appear frequently in newspapers or zip codes that target the consumers most likely to respond. These ongoing promos can be affordably produced in smaller sizes in one or two colors.

Event-specific promos, on the other hand, ought to be large attention-grabbers, in full color when budget permits, to reach a big cross section in a limited time frame. Run anti-fur ads in mass circulation papers around Fur-Free Friday and the holidays. Coordinate anti-vivisection ads or billboards with international initiatives such as World Week for Animals in Laboratories. Arrange plugs for vegetarianism to coincide with MeatOut or other large scale drives. And time literature about the abuse of animals in circuses to appear with a visiting exhibitor¹s advertisements. This "layering effect" promises the most bang for your advertising buck.

The ultimate scenario is to build enough credibility and curiosity to elicit free news coverage. When the St. Louis Animal Rights Team circulated press releases about its anti-vivisection billboards, reporters from ABC, CBS and WB affiliates contacted them for a story. Some publications will run complimentary editorial in conjunction with your display ads.

As an incentive for customers, retailers can earmark part of their proceeds for charities. Snooty Jewelry owner Jeanine Taylor, who designs animal-free accessories for the conscientiously clad, advertises her Round Up For Change Program and Snooty Jewelry Party Fundraisers via the internet, mailings and point-of-purchase displays. Shoppers are inclined to become patrons when they learn that their purchases help fund Alliance for Animals, The Peace Abbey, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, September 11th Victims Families, and other charities.

Some mavericks still flinch at the notion of "corporatizing" vegan wisdom. They prefer to drift against the current. It is the mainstream, after all, who consume, wear and experiment upon animals. Yet for any non-traditional discipline to persevere, its messengers must paddle in a user-friendly direction.


Brenda Shoss is director of Kinship Circle Letters for Animals, Articles and Literature. Kinship Circle generates letter campaigns to legislators, businesses and media that address a broad spectrum of animal cruelty and protection issues. Ms. Shoss writes for The Healthy Planet, VegNews, AnimalsVoice Online and other publications/websites.

For 15 years, Ms. Shoss has managed a freelance advertising and public relations business, with clients that range from doctors, dentists, and interior designers, to companion animal services and national AR groups such as In Defense of Animals. Ms. Shoss is also a professional modern dancer who teaches and performs.

"I earn my living as an advertising designer, journalist, and dance instructor. I inhabit my life as an advocate for the animals."

Kinship Circle is a monthly column that appears in The Healthy Planet and periodically in VegNews, AnimalsVoice Online and other publications. If you would like to reprint this column, please request author permission at [email protected]

To subscribe to Kinship Circle Letters for Animals, email: [email protected]

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