On February 2, the world places a rare focus (and a lot of pressure) on a certain rodent: the groundhog. Expected to predict whether or not an early spring is forthcoming via the sight or lack thereof of its shadow, this small creature is the center of quite a stir each Groundhog Day. While Punxsutawney Phil may hog the spotlight on that one day, Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ is leveraging social media to take over the month.
Essex Ed, the prognosticating groundhog at NJ's #1 zoo, has taken over the zoo's Twitter account (@TurtleBackZoo) – and has turned Groundhog Day into Groundhog Month. Complete with his own hashtag (#EssexEd), the furry futurist is taking his predictions way beyond the weather. Olympic wins, color trends, TV series hits...nothing appears to be beyond the groundhog's abilities. Ed even answers prediction questions posed to him by the Twittersphere.
Combining a sense of humor (apologizing for predicting a long winter) along with useful information (predicting the zoo's closure on snow days), this social media promotion shows how a brand can leverage a holiday in the right way. First, the tie-in makes sense from a consumer standpoint – it feels appropriate. Second, it is fun and not forced, as evidenced by the campaign's ability to remain fresh across an entire month (an eternity on Twitter). Third, it engages and converses with followers instead of simply speaking at them.
The "Groundhog Month" was a natural extension of Turtle Back Zoo's annual Groundhog Day prediction festivities, in which visitors and press are invited to see Essex Ed make his weather prediction each February 2. This year he accurately predicted the long winter and the Seahawks' Super Bowl victory, since Groundhog Day fell on Super Bowl Sunday – and then shared those predictions on Twitter, bringing a dose of reality to the virtual world.
To ask the social-savvy rodent to weigh in with a specific prediction, tweet your question before February 28 to @TurtleBackZoo and be sure to use the hashtag #EssexEd.