I, Animal: Redefining the Zoo

Zoos have a wide appeal across society attracting children, parents and grandparents. However, while we don’t necessarily lose our love for the zoo, there are times during our life when there is often very little engagement. But Melbourne Zoo has found a way around this through their fantastic new adults-only experience: I, Animal.  

I animalDescribed as ‘part multi-media tour, part theatrical experience and part animal encounter’, I, Animal takes you on a moving, emotional and entertaining journey through the zoo.DSC01625

Plugged into an iPod Touch called ‘Zoë’, participants are taken on an interactive journey through one of four sections of the zoo exploring our connections with animals and pondering some of life’s philosophical questions. A mixture of funny entertainment and deep reflection, it allows you to experience the zoo in a completely different way.

Out of the four possible loops (giraffe, penguin, elephant and monkey), I went on the penguin tour. The theme of this tour was phobias. And in addition to exploring some of your own fears, my group gained an appreciation of fear in the animal world from the fear of penguins stepping into a new pool to the fear of suffocation when seals get caught in discarded rubbish in the ocean.

DSC01628But the experience isn’t all reflective, there is a mixture of entertainment as well. We got to break some zoo taboos, interact with some of the ‘scarier’ creatures and even finish the experience with a ride on the renowned carousel. And trust me, there is nothing more enjoyable than 20 adults riding a carousel!

To end the night, all the groups came back together around some campfires to toast marshmallows and discuss their experience on their individual and completely different loops. And everyone was buzzing. Each person on the tour had developed their own new connection with the zoo and had experienced the zoo through a child-like view of wonderment and discovery – rather similar to when they visited Melbourne Zoo for the first time.

And this is the key to maintaining a connection with the Zoo throughout a lifetime – creating unique new experiences that change as the consumers change. This experience has been tailored specifically to adults who still love the opportunity to see animals but want a different experience to the education and discovery usually aimed at children.DSC01635

By clearly understanding the desires of their target market to interact with the animals on an adult level, they have created a service that hits the mark. And the results are clear in the desire of everyone last night to come back and try another loop.

But if you think the experience stops there, then you would be wrong. Throughout the tour as we answered questions on the ‘Zoë’, a mind map was created of our experience and the emotional journey that we have travelled over the tour. This morning I woke up to find that the mind map had been emailed to me. What a clever idea because when I looked through the mind map I relieved the fantastic experience from last night and then was able to share it with all of my friends.

It was the most moving and exciting experience and re-energised my love for the zoo. But at the same time it was unlike anything else I had ever experienced – and had some fantastic marketing components as well!

This is an experience that everyone must do at least once (or four times).

For more information about Melbourne Zoo’s I, Animal click here. Seriously, book your tickets now – It is like a real-life Night at the Museum!