Episode 164:

Executive Director of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo since 2012, Dr. Christopher Kuhar manages the Zoo’s extensive animal collection and oversees the daily operations of the 183-acre facility. Since joining Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 2008, he has also served as Curator of Primates and Small Mammals and Curator of Animals. Prior to that, Dr. Kuhar was the Research Manager at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, where he studied animal behavior for nearly five years. He previously worked as a Research Assistant at Zoo Atlanta from 2000 to 2003 and at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo from 1997 to 2000.

Dr. Kuhar received his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Akron in 1997, his Master of Science in zoology from Oklahoma State University in 2000 and his doctorate in experimental psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2004.

In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for four years, Dr. Kuhar has served as the Board Liaison to the Animal Welfare Committee, and as a member of the Safety Committee, Animal Population Management Committee, Research and Technology Committee as well as multiple TAGS and SSPs. Kuhar also serves as an AZA Executive Leadership Development Program mentor.

In this episode of Destination on the Left, Executive Director of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Dr. Christopher Kuhar, joins us to discuss his branding strategy for the zoo. He talks about leading with the mission to increase awareness of the work organizations are doing behind the scenes.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How zoos are weaving their mission into their brand story
  • Why balance is so important
  • How the Cleveland Zoo became part of an award-winning special parks district
  • How Dr. Kuhar and his team redesigned the messaging strategy
  • What visitors want to know about your destination
  • How Cleveland Metroparks Zoo stands out from its competitors
  • Projects that Dr. Kuhar and his team are currently working on

Rebranding the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Dr. Christopher Kuhar is the Executive Director of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, where he manages the Zoo’s animal collection and oversees the daily operations. In Dr. Kuhar’s current role, he is leading the Cleveland Zoo into a new chapter with an emphasis on conservation, education, and animal welfare. On top of the massive additions to infrastructure and exhibits that have already been completed, Dr. Kuhar and his team are changing the way that they talk about themselves to the public. Traditionally, zoos have always focused their marketing budget on getting people through the front gates. But there is amazing work happening behind the scenes and Dr. Kuhar is making an effort to weave it into the brand.

What are You Doing to Make the World a Better Place?

For the travel industry in general, there has been a major shift as far as what people are looking for when they travel; and there is a greater concern for the environments they are stepping into. The impact visitors have on the destinations they visit and the footprints they leave behind are out in the open, so brands like the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo have capitalized on opportunities to talk about the work they are doing. In polling data from the AZA, Dr. Kuhar and his team have gathered a significant amount of information about their visitors—and they found that the desire to see destination organizations making the world a better place is near the top of the list. That is something every DMO can leverage.

How Do You Show Up in the World?

Many guests at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo are completely unaware of the impact Dr. Kuhar and his team are making, so that was a major driver behind the new messaging. They wanted to highlight the conservation work they have been doing for the last twenty years and lead with their mission in every advertisement and every piece of content on social media. So far, this has increased awareness from 50% to 90% and it has even increased attendance from demographics that would normally be considered outliers. How your brand shows up in the world is directly correlated to a traveler’s decision to visit your destination. So, if you want to learn more about Dr. Kuhar’s successful rebrand of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, listen in.

Episode Transcript

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