This site is not optimized for Internet Explorer 9 and lower. Please choose another browser or upgrade your existing browser in order get the best experience of this website.

Edmonton Valley Zoo

Supporting a much-loved institution with a strong strategy and new brand approach

  • Reputation
  • Brand
  • Media

The Story

A few years ago, the Edmonton Valley Zoo had lost favour with almost everyone – from City Council and regular Edmontonians to animal rights organizations and international media. Their reputation was tarnished, not because the zoo was falling behind with its animal care, but because staff were falling behind with their communication practices. It took a visit from well-known animal rights activist Bob Barker before they recognized the need to get out in front of the issues they faced.

Through an aggressive issues management program, Blackcoffee helped turn the situation around. We then quickly followed up with a fresh new brand that resonated emotionally with Edmontonians, reminding them that their zoo has its unique and special strengths that should be celebrated.

Edmonton Valley Zoo
Scroll Me


  • Brand Strategy
  • Creative Direction
  • Website Wireframes
  • Website Writing
  • Media Relations & Media Training
  • Social Media

The Challenge

Animal rights activists from around the world targeted the Edmonton Valley Zoo for years. Their case focused on Lucy the Elephant, who came to the Zoo in the 1970s as an orphaned baby. PETA and others called for her to be moved. They made wild accusations, sent Bob Barker on a crusade to the zoo and chose questionable tactics to make their case. During this time, items of concern were found in Lucy’s enclosure and almost 70 guinea pigs were killed with poisoned oranges.

Edmonton Valley Zoo
Scroll Me

Our Approach

We launched a reputation management offensive starting days before Bob Barker came to town, capturing the front page of the local newspapers and turning the Zoo’s veterinarian into a hero. Zoo staff were no longer nameless, faceless targets but tireless and passionate animal caregivers. We knew we had to speak to our audiences’ minds as well as their hearts, so we also brought in a leading elephant expert from the San Diego Zoo to examine Lucy and applaud her care. With the crisis averted, we had time to rebrand the zoo into a treasured icon, helping locals and visitors understand that small zoos can offer personal and rewarding animal encounters in a way that their larger counter parts can’t.


Support for the Edmonton Valley Zoo and keeping Lucy right where she is gained traction through social media and in the mainstream, where local columnists who once spoke out against the institution, now vigourously applaud.