Few brands have the recognition and legacy to span more than seven decades, and fewer have an opportunity to modernize themselves to be relevant and meaningful. Enter Smokey Bear, the iconic character of the United States Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council, educating the public on the importance of wildfire safety, and his newly designed website, SmokeyBear.com.
We are elated for so many reasons to have earned the opportunity to have evolved the Smokey brand through a reimagined website experience. It gave us a chance to immerse ourselves in the lore of a legacy brand with such a prominent history and high standards. He’s more than a cartoon bear in a ranger hat with the infamous “Only you can prevent wildfires,” tagline. He’s about education, responsibility and accountability — a true participatory brand before it became “a thing.”
At the core of our approach is a user-centric research process. Smokey needed to be relevant in 2016, so we embarked on a robust research exercise with primary audiences of outdoor enthusiasts, parents and teachers to truly understand what would drive engagement with this content.
The resulting user experience is rendered as a welcoming-yet-authoritative platform that entertains as it educates. Smokey doesn’t wag his finger in a preachy way; he invites you to learn in the context of outdoor activity that enhances your experience. Video PSAs featured on the site reinforce the message, while clean and modern infographics quickly and easily describe the appropriate ways to use and put out fires. The site doesn’t overly pander to a “cartoony” perception of the brand, but rather plays up its warm and approachable nature, giving users ways to be inspired to learn and share Smokey’s timeless lessons.
The development behind the site also brings Smokey to a modern standard. With a responsive experience, users can interact with the content across devices. We also wanted to make the content frictionless and interactive through examples such as taking the Smokey Pledge that auto-detects your location and quickly adds your tally to your state’s total.
We’re proud to have been a part of Smokey Bear’s legacy and to empower him to tell his important story. And remember, “Only you…” well, you know the rest.