Crying bokkie: how does it make you feel?

by Lauren Hermanus

British Sustainability Communications Company Futerra recently published a great report on branding biodiversity in which they credibly make the case for a new nature message. It’s a message of hope, optimism, awe and wonder. A message in which communicators should emphasise the love not the loss of biodiversity in the world. To inspire and engage the general public, messages of love coupled with action are far more persuasive than talking about extinction and the loss of biodiversity, they say.

In short:

Love = an inspired audience, and when inspired they will want to know what they can do, i.e. Action.

And Love + Action = Public change.

Looking around the Western Cape, an area of bountiful nature home to three of the world’s 34 internationally recognised biodiversity hotspots, I’ve found some nature messages that aren’t following Futerra’s love advice. Instead, they are falling into the inevitable trap of leading with loss. Here they are:

Starting with the old guilt trip formula of “look what you’ve done”, followed by a picture of a crying antelope, this poster tries to redeem itself with an inclusive”Bokkie says” and personal call to action that “only YOU can prevent bush and veld fires!”

I cheated with this one and found it on Google Earth Street View as the ad is no longer on the billboard. Apologies that the robot (or traffic light if you’re a non South African reader) is in the way. But you can see it’s the same image of a crying bokkie with the veld ablaze in the background. At least this advert gives more direction and tells people what they should not be doing.

And finally, the illustrated crying bokkie pleading with you to please prevent veld fires. This photo was taken up by Rhodes Memorial but the same image can be seen at many vantage points around the Table Mountain National Park.

So my question is, how does the crying bokkie make you feel? And, would a message centered around the beauty of nature in the Western Cape make you care more about biodiversity conservation?

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About laurenhermanus

Coffee drinking philosophy reading film loving person with an interest in all matters related to development.
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3 Responses to Crying bokkie: how does it make you feel?

  1. Nicola Robins says:

    It probably would. And I think Futerra is spot on with their messaging. Bokkie, however, is something of a nostalgia trip for South Africans. She’s been around forever, as has her “Look what you’ve done” tag-line. Perhaps the question is: Can we get over our penchant for nostalgia (hm – what exactly is that nostalgia for??) long enough to explore creative new ways to communicate?

  2. Teri Kruger says:

    Thank you for this insight. I remember being a part of the team some years ago debating the merit/demerits of the “Bokkie” campaign. The authorities argument was of a nostalgic nature – everyone is already aware of the bokkie from childhood & therefore they did not want to loose the branding. Positive messaging IS the way to go.

  3. Arch Stanton says:

    I have to disagree completely. Since childhood that sign is a reminder of what happened to bokkie’s mom & dad & friends and to be careful. Even my 8 year old kids (who know bokkie’s story) say “hey dad, be careful here with fires” when we pass a bokkie sign.

    Just incase you don’t know the story: http://www.yellow-mini.co.za/bokkie

    Regards
    Arch

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