Design Isn’t Everything, But It Is a Catalyst: Maryland Zoo’s Rebrand

On May 11th, The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore hosted AMA Baltimore to share their experience in rebranding a historic institution with an already identifiable brand. Timm Baldwin, The Maryland Zoo’s Director of Marketing & Digital Media, had quite the challenge. He and his team found a clever way to engage their audience while elevating The Maryland Zoo’s mission and keeping the experience fun.


Design Can Breathe New Life for Your Brand

Visitors come to zoos to see, experience, and engage with wildlife. To bring new life into this historical brand, there needed to be unique engagement in how people visualized the brand.

Timm and his team knew that design would be the right catalyst in launching the Zoo’s rebrand. They realized that they couldn’t simply roll out a new design and claim victory. Timm and his team started A/B testing their visual focus by connecting new events, such as Brew at the Zoo, to animals. For Brew at the Zoo, the designers took pint glasses and combined them with animal outlines. It was a simple, direct way of putting the wildlife experience at the forefront, while highlighting the excitement of the event.

This subtle use of visualization made an impact. After utilizing the pints in 2012, they had an increase in attendance of 38%, and by 2016, The Maryland Zoo was selling out the event 10 days in advance. This A/B test demonstrated that making a visual impact was key to jump-starting their rebrand.

Through research, Timm and his team discovered that the main motivations of zoo attendance was changing. They needed to refocus their efforts to making the Zoo a place not only for family engagement, but an interactive (and local) way to learn about wildlife. Natural habitats around the world are shrinking, and The Maryland Zoo had a great opportunity to showcase their conservation efforts to their audience. (Fun Fact: They currently house the most golden frogs of any zoo in the world.)

Once Timm and his team figured out that conservation and conservation education were going to be the focus of the rebrand, they needed to find a way to visually connect their audience to their mission. They decided to incorporate The Maryland Zoo’s 4 top conservation programs in their logo – Rhinos, Elephants, Panamanian Gold Frogs, and Penguins. This subtle visual rebrand allowed the Zoo to inspire and educate people to join the active conservation of wildlife and wild places. Not only did it energize the audience, it got many employees engaged in the process.

They felt the value of the mission.


Content is the Heartbeat of Your Brand

As part of the branding overhaul, The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore’s website and branded platforms underwent a complete visual overhaul. They implemented a process of creating deeper user-experience with an ever-growing collection of native content and showcasing superb photography on all their social media platforms. By making the images as captivating as possible, the Zoo prompted the audience to engage in conversation about the animals, whether it be a comment or a fact.

The logo redesign alone couldn’t spur the change that the Zoo was seeking, but it sparked a new direction.


Key Takeaways

Timm offered the following key takeaways:

  • Communicate your brand through design
  • Find wild ways to reach audiences on a limited budget
  • Use social media truths that increase your engagement and grow your flock
  • Content is the heartbeat of the rebrand

These are all important as the Zoo has achieved a 25% increase in attendance and a 50% increase in annual membership revenue over the past 5 years.

We thank Timm and The Maryland Zoo for their insights! It is truly amazing to see the results of a rebrand that is deliberate and strategically executed.


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