Taking a Risk: Hippo Mania

Prior to 2017, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens had a rough few years. With the shooting of adult male gorilla Harambe and questions surrounding the death of a baby giraffe, the zoo had endured significant negative publicity.

HippoloveSo it was a huge risk for the zoo to embark on a full scale PR and social media campaign documenting the birth of a female baby hippo who arrived six weeks early. Fiona was the youngest hippo ever born and her chances of survival were low. Despite this, the zoo decided to publicly share her journey – celebrating milestones and asking for prayers when there seemed to be little hope.

Despite many twists and turns, Fiona celebrated her first birthday this month and has become an international viral media darling. Hailed as the “Best Thing to Happen in 2017” from ABC News and appearances on The Tonight Show, she has become a bona fide brand.

Fiona now consistently garners millions of views on her “Fiona Show” YouTube videos and the zoo enjoyed a record 20 percent increase in zoo attendance in 2017. Earlier this month, the zoo announced a $150 Million expansion “More Home to Roam” campaign thanks in large part to the hippo mania. People from all over the world come to see the Fiona effect. I, for one, am a huge fan and so proud of my local zoo for taking on this incredible yet risky journey.

*This post originally appeared in the February issue of The Spark newsletter.

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