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The Rolling Stones Use Gorilla Marketing, Miss Opportunity to Make Real Impact

Posted by Mark J. Miller on September 25, 2012 11:11 AM

You've heard of guerrilla marketing — how about gorilla marketing? The Rolling Stones have a greatest hits album that's being released on Nov. 12 called GRRR!, featuring a gorilla on the cover with the band's iconic "big lips logo" superimposed on its face. So don’t be alarmed when you see large images of the cheeky gorilla popping up around the world to promote the album.

The gorillas are taking over 50 cities and 3,000+ locations around the globe, being tagged on such landmarks as Sydney's Opera House, New York’s Empire State Building and London’s Elizabeth Tower (that’s Big Ben to all of you who missed the renaming for Her Majesty). They can be seen in 3D augmented reality via mobile devices that have downloaded UView's app, so fans can "watch the stunning GRRR! artwork fully realized in 3D animation right before their eyes .... some exciting content and have the chance to enter an exclusive competition plus pre-order a copy of GRRR!"

As part of the marketing stunt that's billed as the "biggest global Augmented Reality music campaign" to date, the Stones are encouraging fans to take pics of the gorillas and tweet them with the #GRRR! hashtag to the Stones’ Twitter feed, @RollingStones. The photos will also show up on an interactive wall on the Rolling Stones website.

That #GRRR hashtag is more commonly used on Twitter, by the way, to express frustration — which is what real gorilla lovers are feeling.

That's because there are only about 720 mountain gorillas in the world. About half of them live in Virunga National Park in Africa’s Congo. It would be a sweet life — except that there is a civil war raging there, about a quarter million refugees and a number of militia groups living near the Park — and the human threat to the park's gorilla population is graver than ever, even worse than when Dian Fossey was alive.

The more desperate humans aren't even poaching the endangered species for money, but in order to have access to the trees in the park to make into charcoal for cooking. Scientific American reports that there is a far better charcoal to burn that costs less and wouldn’t make people cross paths with mountain gorillas. The problem, of course, is getting the message to the people who are spread through refugee camps in the area.

One of the rangers, Balemba Balagizi, who is charge of the new-charcoal distribution program, decided to try a little gorilla marketing himself to catch attention. He put on a gorilla suit to get attention (see below) and walked through the refugee camps — along with an energy-efficient stove and a bag of biomass briquettes made of sawdust, rice husks, coffee and tea residues, sorghum, leaves and grass. His goal was to show residents a cheaper alternative to what they were using that also might help save the gorillas and parkland, Scientific American notes. 

If nothing else, “it did bring a few smiles to otherwise terribly stressed families,” Chief Warden Emmanuel de Merode wrote in a blog post for the official Virunga blog, titled "Gorilla Marketing in the Refugee Camps." We also hope it generated some international awareness and fundraising.

Indeed, wouldn't it be GRRReat! if the Rolling Stones promoted donating to save real gorillas (such as Virunga's latest baby gorilla orphans) while using virtual gorillas to plug their new album — and made a real impact by using their massive clout and influence for more than just selling albums?

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