To get a sense of the evolution of our project, one could start with the name of our team. Initially, we – Theo, Vaisakh, Josh, Asli, and myself (Cameron) – were assigned to groupelephant.com, a South African for-profit company with a “three-zone” business model consisting of a for-profit software business as well as non-profit and impact investing activities around wildlife conservation and poverty alleviation. The client was frustrated that all of the good work it had done for conserving elephants and rhinos had gone nearly unmentioned in the press, and hired us to turn that around.
After a semester in Berkeley figuring out how to market this unique business model to a corporate audience in the U.S., we decided to refocus our efforts on just the non-profit entity of groupelephant.com, ERP – short for Elephants, Rhinos, and People. We were fortunate to work with Quintin Smith, a Haas alum himself, who embodied the passion and entrepreneurial spirit we came to recognize in all of ERP and groupelephant.com.
On The road!
The highlight of our three-week trip was without a doubt heading down two days after we arrived to a wildlife reserve in the Eastern Cape. The reserve had recently suffered a tragic rhino poaching, and we were there to discuss steps the reserve could take to protect the rest of its herd. These conversations dovetailed nicely with one of our final deliverables, developing an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign for a technology-driven rhino security solution.
Every good Indiegogo campaign has a short video to go along with it. So we had to take to the streets – er, the dusty trails – of the reserve to start shooting some film.
To get the best lighting, we woke up at the crack of dawn for some sunrise safaris…
…and went back for round two as the sun set:
With this trip, we really took mixing business and pleasure to new heights – we struggled to think of another time when we’d be holding team meetings around a campfire, or conducting research from the back of a safari truck.
As much as we loved our time on the reserve, eventually, we had to pack our bags and say goodbye.
A weekend retreat
Fortunately for us, the Quintinator was not about to let us go back to Pretoria quite yet. Instead, he and the rest of the crew took us up to Modumela, a ranch several hours north of the city.
After several days of filming and focusing exclusively on our Indiegogo campaign, we needed to step back for a moment to think through our project’s broader objectives.
But it was the weekend, and we made sure to relax:
The real work begins
When we got back to Pretoria, we buckled down in the office and got back to work. We had a gargantuan task ahead of us: taking a semester’s worth of research, conversations, and observations and coming up with a succinct yet comprehensive branding for this burgeoning non-profit. Very quickly, we realized that this work was more than just a marketing exercise; it was getting to the heart of ERP’s strategic first, figuring out how to communicate it second.
Like any good first-year Haas students, we got our PFPS on:
The Windy City
Despite being in crunch time, we managed to find time to get away, just the five of us – the dream team. We spent the weekend in beautiful Cape Town, taking a much needed break from everything branding, marketing, and frameworks.
In the end, we delivered a comprehensive branding and marketing action plan for our client. This final report provided some realistic, actionable recommendations for coordinating ERP’s communication from the inside out.
It wasn’t always the easiest process – we took the liberty of proposing some bold new ideas, and the clients didn’t always pick up what we were putting down, sending us back to the drawing board. This entire experience was undoubtedly a valuable learning process. If anything, we learned that, for all of the immense value of the Haas core curriculum, what works in a business setting isn’t always the most feasible for a young non-profit. We didn’t realize it at the time, but our challenge was adapting what we had learned in Marketing (and in Strategy, Leading People, Leadership Communications…) and adapting it for an untraditional setting. Three weeks and many Post-Its later, we can confidently say that we “cracked the code” on non-profit marketing.
As for me, I learned that, when you have the right crew by your side, getting around the South African bush on crutches isn’t so hard. I wasn’t sure what three weeks abroad while unable to walk properly would be like, but with help and support from my awesome team, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. It was, as Josh would say, truly something special.