POP Kollaborative Gets Top Execs Stuck.. on Ducks

By Stacy Wyatt

The name Ducks Unlimited may conjure up images from American commercials about hunting, but in Canada, Ducks is all about conservation. Ducks Unlimited wanted their attendees to understand and become passionate about their brand, be educated as to the importance of the work, and become raving fans of the conversation, education, and experiential offerings (wetland tours, bird-watching, etc.) at the conservation sites.

To achieve this, Blakes came on board as a supporting partner and brought in international award-winning Pop Kollaborative, a Calgary based live experience agency to help move their community investment forward by helping Ducks Unlimited get the exposure and impact they needed.

Rather than taking the marketing campaign to the streets, as one would typically do for a public awareness campaign, POP decided to flip the script and bring the event inside. Instead, it chose to connect with top-level female corporate executives, creating dozens of believers able to leverage their personal and professional influence to champion the organization.

Ambassadors passionate about the wetlands and moving the Ducks Unlimited brand forward, including Laureen Harper, former wife of Stephen Harper.

One of the things that makes this a brilliant marketing exercise was the fact that, unlike a fundraiser for a cause or a well-known charitable event, the attendees at this event were not familiar with the brand and its purpose and needed to commit to their valuable time to learn about something that they may have no interest in. This was a calculated campaign to break down pre-conceived ideas about Ducks Unlimited (if the attendees had ever heard of the organization).

To do this, the POP team needed to get them intrigued enough to commit to attending. The solution? Hand-deliver 3-dimensional invitations to 1000 possible attendees (yes, hand-delivered). Over one day, 1000 mini decoy mallards and ducks nestled in a faux nest with a wrapper explaining the request for their time were sent floating out across Calgary to top female executives.

Women in the Wetlands was presented from an artistic and sophisticated perspective that appointed the wetlands landscape on a residential scale. Stephanie Dunn of Décor & More Inc., worked with Ken Kristoffersen, President of POP Kollaborative and Meghan Hird, Director – Live Experiences to imagine and design this space to use every opportunity to create excitement, passion and showcase the vital role Ducks Unlimited plays in the health and safety of our fragile ecosystem.

10’x 16’ custom-printed backdrops anchored multiple educational destinations within the space. For example, guests could look at a contemporary image of blue agate stone and associate it with a topographic map of the watershed. These backdrops were placed for balance throughout the marketing experience and further elevated by residential lounges, coordinating with individual pieces of art and educational activations.

This intuitive companionship rejected any reason for the guest demographic to feel displaced while championing an otherwise masculine brand. These education stations highlighted specific areas of Canadian Wetlands, including wetland ecosystems/Water Plants, Watersheds/Wetlands Landscapes, Waterbird/Wetland Conservation, Marshland/Swamps, and Waterways/Iconic Geographic Habitats. Each zone was anchored by a scientist who educated guests while having them participate in interactive experiences.

Much like the wetlands horizon, multiple opportunities for seating and mingling mimicked the outdoor landscape. Unique pockets of unexpected soft seating in seasonal hues were colour-blocked strategically throughout the space. Organic accents and ambient candlelight added a feminine touch, directly connected to the Wetlands through polished stones and authentic and coloured water in designer glassware.

Representative of the wetlands and the outdoors, they showcased several shades and finishes of wood. High-top tables and dining-height communals remained linen-free and complimentary to the surrounding décor. Food stations and bars were set as companions, with oversized cat tail installations offering guests easy access to food and beverages.

Instead of setting it up like a tradeshow or exhibit where each guest has a linear flow experience, POP used an uber-creative design to resemble a pinball game, where guests turned, they came upon something new. If they came out of one education experience, they bounced into another and, finally, the piece de resistance.

To touch, move, and inspire guests to learn more, engage more, and support Ducks Unlimited, the POP team brought in live birds of prey. From owls to a live eagle and a little duck, Rowan, each guest could experience the majesty of these amazing animals and take a photo to mark the experience to send out on social media.

Central to the space was the ‘POP UP’ wellies station! To thank the attendees for their time, Ducks provided each attendee with rubber boots. POP suggested these would not only be useful post-event, in rain, snow or a visit to the wetlands, but the opportunity to set up a boot shop and have guests wear the boots at the event was another way to immerse them in the experience fully. Created with a series of darkly stained cabana structures at two different heights, the ‘stop and shop’ activation served as an area to size and fit hundreds of women with identical rubber boots.

Of course, no regular boot would do; they needed to be of exceptional quality as the attendees more than likely had their Wellies or Hunter Boots at home. After much research, POP recommended Kamik Boots because Kamik’s brand and culture aligned beautifully with Ducks Unlimited’s. Not only are they a 119-year-old Canadian brand, but they also run a zero-waste operating practice, and the boots are all fully recyclable and can be dropped off at partner retailers.

With no time to brand the boots “Ducks Unlimited,” a creative solution was resourced by having 3M create a small logo (only one per set of boots to add design interest) from the optically transparent 3M substrate. During the event, guests exchanged stilettos and Jimmy Choos for a pair of Kamiks. 

From the logistics side, it took a lot of work to get the boots outfitted, with attendees completely unaware they would be leaving with a pair. It was a surprise to them, and in turn, the team didn’t have any sizes. Despite all this, there was no single mix-up, and over 200 guests spent three hours in their boots that evening. Now that’s engagement!

The Ducks Unlimited creative campaign designed and executed by POP Kollaborative was a tremendous success in engaging an otherwise missed consumer of the Ducks Unlimited brand but also, and by surprise, unexpectedly contributing to the raising of $100,000. At the very last minute, in the back of the event, the team set up a small donation area to ensure they didn’t miss any opportunities, and to their surprise, the event raised $100,000.00 in a short 3 hours.