Vision for conservation
With the primary goal of wildlife conservation, it was time for Zoological Parks Board of NSW to demonstrate to the world they were more than just family entertainment. Taronga Wildlife Conservation Society briefed Hulsbosch to reposition itself as a contemporary, leading, international society contributing to world initiatives.
Leveraging the equity of their most well known entity, Taronga Zoo, a new overarching brand has been created to reflect the heart of the whole organisation – Taronga Conservation Society Australia. Other existing sub brands Western Plains Zoo, the Foundation and many others, are aligned under this structure with a fresh new design and appeal to ensure the ongoing support of wildlife lovers both old and new.
Guy Cooper, Former Director and CEO
The Taronga Conservation Society Australia
Perhaps the most interesting project has been the rebranding of what Sydney-siders and visitors affectionately term ‘The Zoo’ (or more accurately: The Taronga Conservation Society of Australia). In 1897 the Zoological Society was established and found a home on a site known as Billy Goat Swamp (currently Moore Park in Sydney). But it quickly outgrew its location and its vision of setting up bar-less exhibits. After a NSW Government grant of some 52 acres the Zoo pulled up stumps and moved across Sydney harbour to its current location on Cammeraygal land on the southern shores of Mosman; Taronga Zoo officially opened its doors to the public in 1916.
Over time various exhibits and facilities opened, however 1960 heralded a new era in the style and philosophy for the operation of Taronga. After a critical review in 1967 the emphasis was now on scientific research, conservation and education and the first new exhibit built was the platypus and nocturnal house. This new direction was perfectly captured in the Taronga Zoo logo, which dates back to the late 1950s.
During the beginning of the 21st century more research projects and partnerships were developed with national and international institutions so it was time to review all aspects of the brand. More telling, public research conducted in 2005 concluded that the Australian public was unclear of the now multi-faceted roles of Taronga and its range of conservation, research and breeding programs. Furthermore, it was recognised that the name ‘Zoological Parks Board’ did not effectively convey the Zoos work but rather enforced an outdated, conservative and possibly misleading image of its role and functions. One of the first acts of the Board was to coin a new name to better reflect the range of national and international research projects being undertaken. The newly minted Taronga Conservation Society of Australia developed a $250 million master plan to completely overhaul the Zoo and thus began a campaign to redesign the brand and it’s logo1.
Guy Cooper, the then Director and CEO of Taronga Zoo, selected Hulsbosch for the rebranding project. According to Cooper it was an easy decision: ‘After we settled on a new name, I approached Hans, who had helped me design the now famous Toilet Duck brand when I was CEO of S.C. Johnson’2. ‘This rebrand was more that just a design exercise, as this covered a very wide range of activities that are offered through the Zoo. The strategy involved in this project was something only Hulsbosch could bring to the table and was a critical element in our decision-making process’3.
Back in 2008 Cameron Kerr was the General Manager Life Sciences and Environmental Education and was closely involved with the entire rebranding project. He has a very firm grasp on the importance of branding and he recognised that a strong brand design would define Taronga’s purpose, mission and its reason for being.
He remembers that ‘At the time we were looking to reposition the business from providing family entertainment to one involved in a broad scope of activities in the fields of conservation, research and environmental education. We needed to be perceived as a contemporary, leading and international organisation contributing to world initiatives. That’s a lot to convey in a new identity, and the move had to be treated with sensitivity given it was the first time we’d rebranded in 60 years’4.
A tight collaboration between the team at Taronga and Hulsbosch developed. But the Zoo is 80% self-funding and managed by a Board on behalf of the NSW Government. Thus whatever was proposed as part of the rebranding project needed to meet with approval by the NSW Minister for the Environment of the day. This extra layer of sanction meant that repositioning was never going to be a simple process, it took time and effort.
Cameron Kerr, Director and CEO
The Taronga Conservation Society Australia
For the team at Hulsbosch there was never any doubt about what the Taronga brand stood for and they set out to design a new identity that sent a strong signal to the world about caring for a fragile environment and for endangered species5. For Hans in particular, his childhood dream came through when he was tasked with updating this brand. As a young child he was always fascinated with Australia’s unique animals and here was an opportunity to actually contribute in some way and protect the environment using an Australian animal.
The one element of the rebrand that was not in fear of extinction, was the animal already featured as the symbol of Taronga, the platypus. This most unusual animal has a paddle-shaped tail like a beaver; a sleek, furry body like an otter; and a flat bill and webbed feet like a duck. In fact, the first time a platypus was brought to Britain, people couldn’t believe that it was a real animal. They thought that a trickster had sewn two animals together6. Ubiquitously Australian, and indicative of the scientific research direction of the brand, the image was contemporised. Rather than a cartoon-like image of the platypus, it now elegantly engages with its habitat (wetlands and river beds). Equally, the new logo design for the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo shows giraffes in motion reflecting the unique experiences visitors encounter there7.
The Taronga Zoo Board members immediately approved of the brand designs but getting approval from the NSW Government was not as easy, so Hans and the Hulsbosch team had to go the extra mile. Kerr explained, ‘It looked like the State Government was not going to approve our changed name and identity. Hulsbosch met with the advisors of the Minister for the Environment and made sure it got the rubber stamp8.
The rebranding of Taronga was a game changer. It enabled us to explain better what we were offering and enabled us to demonstrate our vision for the future. It had a dramatic effect on its sponsorship income and funds we were raising through the Foundation. They included funding for building the environment, improving visitor experience and funding our conservation endeavours in Australia and throughout the world’9. Since the 2008 rebrand Hulsbosch has retained Taronga (a not-for-profit brand) within its suite of pro-bono clients. The synergy between agency and client is forged on its long association and based on creative understanding, trust and passion for the brand. Kerr reiterates the confidence he has in dealing with Hulsbosch: ‘My relationship with Hans goes back 17 years and I have to say he really fascinates me - he has global legitimacy, always seems to be at the cutting edge, but still has that “old school” skill with pen and paper. Amazing. Over the years we’ve been deeply involved with the team during the major rebranding exercise of 2008 right down to the less exciting ‘slog jobs’ of Annual Reports and the like’10.
The fantastic thing is that after almost 10 years, we still get the same design skills and that enthusiasm from everyone at Hulsbosch, no matter what the size of the task. I have to think that’s a cultural thing’ Cameron Kerr, 2017
'Hulsbosch was intimately involved in all phases of the research and all aspects of creative development. They provided major support and presence in successfully communicating the outcome to the Government, The Board and over 600 staff. Importantly, in our collaboration we shared a perspective that enabled us to move the brand into a future-focused direction. The rebrand has increased understanding of wildlife and inspired community action to support this much-loved organisation.'
Cameron Kerr, CEO
Taronga Conservation Society Australia