Case Study, Posted on May 19, 2016

Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle has long been a nationally-respected leader in conservation and famed for creating naturalistic exhibits. A fresh brand and related capital campaign strategy was needed to usher the zoo into the 21st century, positioning it as a fun learning experience for visitors and as a serious conservation leader worldwide. 


Original Logo


The bold, new identity captures the Zoo's mission as an organization that makes a difference globally and inspires wonder locally. This is the face of Woodland Park Zoo's future as a leading conservation and education organization.

– Dr, Deborah Jensen, President and CEO of Woodland Park Zoo

The Challenge

In the late 1880s, Guy C. Phinney, a wealthy sawmill owner, purchased a large tract of forest land about six miles north of downtown Seattle, which eventually became the Woodland Park Zoo. Fast forward 110 years and Phinney Bischoff–led by one of Guy’s descendants, Leslie Phinney–was chosen to help shepherd the process of developing a new brand positioning and capital campaign strategy for the future of the zoo. We were asked to take the identity of Woodland Park Zoo into the 21st Century by repositioning it as a fun learning experience for visitors, and as a serious conservation leader both locally and worldwide. The Zoo also wanted to streamline their identity and naming system to establish a more cohesive and manageable program that would save precious marketing dollars, and to establish a brand platform to leverage it into a successful capital campaign.

The Solution

The Woodland Park Zoo has served as an urban oasis, gathering generations of people together to enjoy the natural world. As such, the Zoo is cherished in the hearts and minds of countless concerned citizens. The prospect of any change with the Zoo is met with equal parts skepticism and enthusiasm. So our first task was to organize and facilitate the mechanism to collect input and feedback from various constituents and stakeholders throughout the process. 

We began with internal stakeholder interviews and collected countless stories about the value of the zoo to children and their families. The stories of kids making connections with animals, feeling empowered by knowledge, understanding ecosystems, and taking action as young philanthropists was inspirational. 

Following this extensive discovery process and feedback loop with the stakeholders, we identified that the aspects we needed to help people take away from the zoo experience was:

  • Explore and discover; open eyes to a bigger world.
  • Feel connected to animals and the natural world
  • Have an amazing experience that draws you back for more.
  • Be inspired to act as a more responsible global citizen.
  • Connect visitors to the animal and its environment
  • Articulate why we need the Zoo

The old zoo model of standing from afar was exchanged for a new model of getting up close, creating an immersive and more intimate experience. The most challenging brand attribute to communicate is that it’s a transportive experience—being somewhere else in the world and what the zoo does beyond its 92 acres. 

We decided that the identity should reference an animal. Humans have an intuitive connection with animals, and they appeal to both children and adults. It helps add personality and warmth. Yet the identity still needed to work in a co-branding scenario with scientific/conservation entities such as The Nature Conservancy, National Geographic and Surfrider Foundation.

647 respondents to an online survey, that included the general public, neighboring households, zoo members, staff members, Board members, donors and volunteers. Attributes that scored very high for the zoo: 


Select samples of initial concepts:









"Most People understand education and animal care. But they don't 'get' conservation."

"Zoos have transformed from menageries to conservation organizations in out lifetime."

"If people don't come here, they won't change the world."

"The experience transports you somewhere else. Somewhere you may never go otherwise."

The Results

We created the visual language and brand guidelines for use in multiple channels, which features vibrant imagery and a compelling user experience. And finally, we launched a capital campaign via a suite of integrated materials — all of which were strategically centered around the campaign tagline we developed “More wonder, more wild.”

Today, Woodland Park Zoo is thriving as a nationally-respected leader with increased attendance, strong recruiting efforts, and a solid donor base. The capital campaign, encompassing eight strategic initiatives, was a major success, with the Zoo reaching 86% of the $80 million goal in the most recent measurements. The brand evolution and capital campaign will dramatically increase the Zoo’s impact and ability to engage communities in valuing and protecting the wonders of wildlife well into the future.


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