Most campaigns to raise funds and awareness for conservation are aimed at Western audiences. But increasingly, the people making a difference to conservation will be living in emerging markets. Our first experiments at IoE have taught us that these audiences are eager, enthusiastic and possibly more engaged than Western audiences.

Who do you think of when you think of a wildlife conservation donor? Maybe a middle aged man from Colorado, or perhaps a pink-haired vegan college girl in London. But in the decades to come, the people who will be making a difference to conservation will be likely to grow up in Lagos, Rio de Janeiro, Bangalore or Jakarta. Currently, if they are part of an outreach effort, these audiences are mostly included as stakeholders in the local conservation ecosystem, not as donors or consumers.

Most outreach efforts are still aimed exclusively at Western audiences, who have the disposable income to donate, can be reached through traditional communication channels, and fit conservation’s comfort zone. And yet it is the behaviour and mindsets of people in emerging markets that will be influencing policy makers and markets in the years to come.

The results of our pilot products in the last two years have opened our eyes to the ability of mobile games to reach consumers in emerging markets. Through our lean product development approach, as we built and tested products over the past two years, we noticed promising traction in countries where we did not expect it.

The rise of tech and availability of cheap data opens up emerging markets

Mobile games have an incredible power to reach consumers in emerging markets. Smartphone penetration is on the rise - in particular Android, while cost of data is coming down, making it easier than ever to reach audiences.

One of our early products, the Safari Central preview application launched in 2017, has been downloaded over 66,000 times (as of November, 11) of which the vast majority came from India, Brazil and Pakistan.  


Above: pictures taken by users with our Safari Central Augmented Reality preview application.

We believe these results can be attributed to our marketing approach. We kicked off with a six week launch campaign with eight conservation partners, but uptake was slow. Our Brazil based partner WWF was successful in spreading the word about the application, which they did in Portuguese, with Brazilian influencers and press. Localising campaigns is an interesting lesson learned that we will explore further for our next product.

Without significant promotional budget beyond the partner promotion phase, we focussed on growth hacking to make the application discoverable, resulting in a better organic reach of audiences. Soon, in our weekly analysis, we saw new areas on the world map light up.

The current top ten countries Safari Central has been downloaded:

  1. India

  2. USA

  3. Brazil

  4. Pakistan

  5. Russia

  6. UK

  7. Thailand

  8. Indonesia

  9. Bangladesh

  10. Turkey

Surprisingly, our preview application did well even in rural areas. This could be because online video, games and applications are one of the only sources of entertainment in those places: there are less other channels, and people are less distracted.

A window into the user’s world

The Safari Central Preview application had a nifty little feature that became an unintended research tool: users can upload their images to our photo stream on Facebook. This feature created an unexpected window into the lives and locations of our users. After the initial launch, we first saw mostly pics of users in the West, posing with a pangolin or grizzly. Increasingly, photos popped up that appeared to be taken in rural South-East Asia*.  Photos of Indian classrooms, Indonesian living rooms and Bangladeshi offices starting to stream in, with excited children, curious parents, cautious office workers, and dewy eyed couples.

Our audiences in emerging markets/low income countries are enthusiastic, eager to participate, and inventive. In one touching example, an Indian teacher uses the application to teach his pupils about wildlife. He has produced a video tutorial on how to use Safari Central for education purposes on Youtube, in Marathi, a state specific language in India.

The lesson: when you find the right channels and engage people in positive ways, the possibilities to mobilise people in emerging markets in large numbers seem limitless.

A wake-up call: let’s include emerging markets

Ignoring the emerging market audience for conservation campaigning is a missed opportunity, because as these economies grow, peoples consumption power grows, and so too will their ability to influence markets and policy makers. Equally, if not more important, they live in countries where wildlife is still prevalent, their mindsets and decisions are influential, and conservation impacts them most when change happens on the ground.

In 2050, the global population will soar to 9.6 billions and 68% of us will be living as urban, technology driven human beings. Nature will continue to be further and further removed from our daily lives. The biggest part of the global population will be living in non-Western countries. And while the population of Western countries is ageing rapidly, Africa and Asia are the youngest continents. If we want conservation to have any chance of success in the future, we need to engage these audiences on their terms, through channels that have traction, in ways that are relevant to them. We will keep you posted on our experiments and progress.