Creating Millennial-Conservationists: Informing and Engaging the Next Generation

Creating Millennial-Conservationists: Informing and Engaging the Next Generation

In 2019-20, the Wildlife Management Institute worked with state partners from Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to secure one of the multistate conservation grants awarded annually by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The purpose of that ~$150,000, one-year grant was to develop short-form recruitment videos designed for multiple social media platforms with Millennials and Generation Z as their primary targets. Although the emergence of COVID-19 in late 2019 caused unavoidable delays in completing this project, it is now in its final stages of completion.

Duck hunter

The completion of this project and the rollout of its work products are both timely and relevant, since both the Millennial and Gen Z age groups are eclipsing Baby Boomers as the largest U.S. population cohort. However, the conservation community has yet to take advantage of their consumer habits to maximize their integration into the cycle of conservation funding. It is imperative that they become informed and educated about the importance of conservation funding provided through fishing and hunting licenses in conjunction with the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program.

Despite recruitment programs for hunting, shooting, and fishing being increasingly aimed at younger audiences, agencies and partners have largely lacked quality marketing resources to engage these cohorts. Effectively engaging these consumers on a scale sufficient to help sustain and grow funding for fish and wildlife conservation meant cultivating an emotional and behavioral connection to the conservation cause using formats and platforms that are both familiar and universal to these cohorts. To do this, the partners used state-of-the-art market research to undergird development of high-quality, short-form videos designed specifically for this consumer segment to inform them about the importance of conservation funding, emotionally connect them to the cause, and engage them to participate through recreational shooting, hunting, and fishing.

Many members of the Millennial and Gen Z cohorts exhibit a cultural lack of connectivity to the natural world, so it is essential to reach them where they live. Most 22-38 year olds spend two hours or more daily on social media or watching videos on their smartphones. Over 80% use video content to make purchasing decisions. Over 75% follow companies or brands on YouTube, 84% do so on Facebook, nearly 50% do so on Twitter, and about 40% do so on Instagram. Generationally, they are also the most prolific shoppers: they spend 25-40% more per capita than other age groups, totaling more than $200 billion a year. Thus, creating and implementing engaging and actionable video content for use on digital-social platforms is imperative.

The socio-psychological proclivities of this generation also offer promise for effective marketing and engagement in fish and wildlife conservation. Because individual participation and mentoring fuels conservation funding, the appeal of personal involvement is timely. Both of these cohorts are comprised of indviduals that are drawn to causes that they can both feel good about and directly participate in. They want to be treated like partners, not just customers. Connections are important to them. They want to make a difference, and although they are uncertain about today, they are drawn to optimistic causes that can shape a better tomorrow.

The video products developed by this project are designed to inform and raise awareness about the importance of participation in conservation funding, with the ultimate outcome of the target audiences emotionally connecting with and personally engaging in our broader conservation system through participation. The video products will also offer a common web address taking the viewer to a page where they can select a state of interest to view that partner’s “How to hunt/fish” recruitment webpage.

More than 20 video segments are complete and will soon be available to agencies, NGOs, and industry partners to tailor as desired and post on social media and websites. The diverse inventory of content created through this project will allow partners to deliver an effective and actionable conservation funding and participation message across diverse communication platforms. Developed video content will be available in both compressed and uncompressed video format for download and tailoring/branding. The video design will allow partners to use widely available video editing software to customize calls to action and links to their websites or social media platforms.

Photo Credit
US FWS Midwest Region, Flickr
December 15, 2021