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Nothing Says Love Like ... Cockroaches?


By Ken Magill

Talk about ROI.

New York’s Wildlife Conservation Society is wrapping up a Valentine’s Day email campaign in which it invited members to name one of the Bronx Zoo’s Madagascar hissing cockroaches for their Valentine. The return on investment has been stunning.

“Don't be afraid to get creative!” the pitch sent on Feb. 10—the first of two—said. “Maybe you want to name the roach in honor of his or her boss? Their least favorite teacher or talk show host? Or maybe your Valentine loves wildlife of all kinds and would consider a creepy-crawly namesake an honor.”

For a donation of $10, the Wildlife Conservation Society promised to send a “certificate of honor to that certain someone explaining that there’s a special insect living at the Zoo with his or her name on it.”

The results? As of this morning, 5,700 people responded to the campaign for a donation total of $57,000, according to Wildlife Conservation Society officials.

“We spent no money on outside advertising for that campaign,” said John Calvelli, executive vice president of public affairs for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Moreover, the naming certificates the Wildlife Conservation Society sends are e-certificates, so there’s no printing or postage involved.

As a result, the only costs the Wildlife Conservation Society incurred for this campaign were the cost of two mass email transmissions, the cost to create and email the certificates and whatever it took to put together the creative.

Calvelli said the Wildlife Conservation Society has an email file of about 400,000 names but that it is segmented and he couldn’t say offhand how many of those names received the promotion.

“We had no expectations for this campaign,” said Calvelli. “We would have been happy with 1,000. It was just a fun, novel idea. We looked at it really more as a PR opportunity.”

Calvelli added that there’s no way to tell which of the roaches were named out of love and which weren’t.

“We got some funny names, though,” he said. “Like: Kissing Hottie, Machine Gun, Cookie, Puffy Toes, Doom Roachie, Cranky Frankie, Iggy, Lisa Lovebug, Cap and Knuckles, Hysterical, Doctor Death, Mumbles, and my favorite, Groucho.”

He said the Bronx Zoo has “thousands and thousands” of Madagascar hissing cockroaches. “This is the king of roaches,” he said. “It’s over four inches long.”

He added that this promotion was the zoo’s first name-a-cockroach campaign and that it will end tomorrow.

“We want to give Hawaii a chance to respond,” he said.

Calvelli also said that while he couldn’t say for sure, the name-a-roach campaign will probably become a Bronx Zoo Valentine’s tradition.

When asked if a respondent could go to the zoo and see their particular cockroach, Calvelli said: “Well, you can come and look if you want to, but you’d probably be hard pressed to find him. We have thousands and thousands and he might be out that day.”

The campaign can be accessed here.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2011-02-17 12:43:04
Subject: Thank you

Thank you Sravanthi. I get a LOT of help from readers.
Posted by: Sravanthi
Date: 2011-02-16 01:48:43
Subject: Ur just awesome!

Ken, I just love all your articles.. Especially the subject lines which push me to open up the emailer even if im really held up with work.. And this one's funny but also tells us that we need to be really innovative in email marketing to see results! How on earth do you get to know about all these anyway? Thanks so much for publishing such amazing articles!
Posted by: Roanne Parker
Date: 2011-02-15 15:12:32
Subject: Nothing says ‘I love you’ this Valentine’s Day like 5.45% p.a

What a great idea. This made me laugh, as did a campaign I received with the subject line "Nothing says ‘I love you’ this Valentine’s Day like 5.45% p.a" Like many 'loved up' offers I saw, it was completely irrelevant to V-Day but they took the mickey out of themselves and pulled it off. The post is here