Emma Kiernan, who won Marketer of the Year (MotY) in 2019 for her work at Dublin Zoo, is to join Fáilte Ireland as head of marketing communications. Kiernan helped develop Dublin Zoo as Ireland’s top family attraction and not-for-profit organisation, welcoming over 1.2 million visitors a year. She was the executive responsible for driving the zoo’s revenue.
Kiernan rolled out The Zoo TV series on RTÉ One and the Wild Lights winter nights’ experience, which returns next month. Kiernan defined the zoo’s bullseye target market as Irish mums, age 24-44 with children under 12. Comprising 67 per cent of footfall, they are time poor and seek experiences in a safe, outdoor, educational and tech-free environment.
Price is not an issue for the cohort, belief and trust count. When Kiernan first joined the zoo in 2011, McVitie’s was the only sponsor, delivering €10,000 a year. But Kiernan had to resist over-commercialising the zoo. Any partnerships needed to reflect the core brand values of education, conservation and family. As a charity, the zoo’s marketing budget was minimal.
All ad spend was put on hold and the focus turned to PR and building media relations. Kiernan’s previous experience working with the Observer in the UK and Newstalk came in handy. Dublin Zoo uses Teneo for PR and Zenith for media buying. Editorial control of The Zoo TV series rested with Kiernan and her director working with production company Moondance.
In 2017, Kiernan launched Dublin Zoo’s first night-time experience. Wild Lights saw the zoo’s pathways replaced by a lantern trail inspired by wildlife. With a budget of just €125,000, Kiernan looked to media sponsors for support. In return for tickets to Wild Lights, the zoo signed up 98FM and INM. The first year sold out at 190,000 tickets, with over €3m in revenue.
The second year sold out at 223,000 tickets.
Since 2011, footfall at Dublin Zoo grew from 963,053 to 1.23m in 2018. The visitor profile changed under Kiernan’s tenure, with ABC1s up from 63 per cent in 2009 to 88 per cent in 2017. In 2009, the zoo recorded 19 per cent visitor expectation, jumping to 45 per cent two years ago. Kiernan’s tips – take your time, understand your target market and trust your gut.
Marketer of the Year is a Marketing.ie initiative sponsored by Alternatives.