Can Social Media Save Animals?

Have you ever been surfing Facebook, YouTube or Twitter and come across an image of animals being abused, slaughtered or used as a piece of clothing? Were you shocked? Horrified? Disgusted? Wanted to hide in a corner and shed a tear or two? Well, most likely it’s an image intended to engage such emotions within you in order to learn about the unethical treatment of animals. The non-profit organization ‘People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) uses the tactics of shock advertising to capture people’s attention and create buzz in social media.

 Using a variety of social media platforms (Facebook; Twitter; Google+; YouTube; Tumblr; StumbleUpon; Pinterest), PETA has a strong and loyal animal-activist audience consisting over more than 2 million+ followers on Facebook alone. An approximate 10-20,000+ shares, 20,000+ likes and thousands of comments about these issues occur within each graphic image PETA posts. Using social media as their main source of engaging people to learn about these issues, PETA doesn’t seem to care if they offend or make people angry. They cut to the chase using a short message and graphic imagery resulting in an engaging advertisement to make people aware of what’s happening to animals across the world.

It’s without a doubt that this organization strategically markets their brand successfully.

 Well, how does PETA successfully capture their target audience? When comparing the David Aaker’s Brand Equity Model there seem to be certain elements within that PETA successfully achieves. By engaging their target audience with a strong brand association and identity, PETA develops a loyal and active audience. Although PETA is a non-profit organization, they use the similar structure of Aaker’s Brand Equity Model to successfully achieve a convincing non-profit organization brand.

Although PETA doesn’t use the typical marketing strategies, would their messages be as successful if they didn’t use shock advertising as their main methodology of branding themselves? Animals don’t have voices so we as people have to be the voices for them. If it weren’t for PETA would people be talking about the unethical treatment of animals in social media?


I’m not so convinced that they would.


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9 Responses to Can Social Media Save Animals?

  1. mmirck says:

    I think PETA is communicating the right way. You can’t have nice and happy commercials or advertisement to see how animals are treated. If you want to show what is really going on and how terrible that is, it doesn’t make sense to ‘tell’ people friendly that animals are being mistreated, because it won’t ‘reach’ us. It is shocking and sometimes even disgusting to see those pictures, but it might be necessary.

  2. emmanuelleh says:


    It is very interesting to use an association.I do not agree with PETA marketing strategy, this is too agressive for me. Yes there is some buzz but sometimes it looks so extrem that some people can wonder if it is true or make up to create a bigger buzz. That also can chock young people when the content is not appropriate (because they do not use to caution people before their video). But very good post

    • mikejlemon says:

      Thanks for the comment! Would you suggest that using another type of marketing strategy would be as effective (or more)? Although it’s an aggressive and extreme marketing strategy, I have to argue that the subject itself is aggressive and extreme… It’s unfortunate how some people turn a blind eye to this subject and believe this doesn’t exist; this subject must be brought up and discussed, but is there an appropriate way to do so?

  3. suyeonr says:

    Very Interesting subject and post, Michael:) I’d say PETA has really powerful branding effect since for most of ordinary people It might be first source they get the information how animals are treated badly from and also in my case, I’m one of them who are shocked and furious from every brutal and disgusting images of poor animals. It effects much stronger than tons of words. It’s really efficient and effective way to show people what they want to say as Maran said above. I’m not sure whether other companies also could get this kind of effect with few images or not but if a company find similar way out, it will be huge.

  4. A very interesting post!
    I personally agree with PETA’s outreach to people, because, as you mentioned, it shocks them and they cant’ help but pay attention. The real problem with animal abuse is overall ignorance about the issue. Sure people now that animals are being killed and used for our content, but rarely someone realizes how horrible they are being treated. Which brings me to my point: I think PETA (or any other animal protecting organization) could really benefit from adding another way of communicating to their audience. Some people do not accept the use of graphic images, especially on SM, and moreover- they may be shocked for a second, a minute, an hour- but that fades away. However, if people are educated on the issue, persuaded by the calm logical reasons, it becomes much harder to continue to ignore the issue. Animal product industry uses this tool all the time: FFA (Future Framers of America) actually has events on farms, showing off that animals are treated ‘right’ and are killed ‘humanely’;advertisements for animal products(especially for milk, and yogurts) emphasise the health benefits that animal producrs supposedly have. So maybe doing the same would help PETA convince more people to stop animal abuse.

  5. silkema says:

    Very interesting post michael! I totally agree with you I think it is good that PETA uses this kind of advertising. I think that you sometimes have to shock people in order to ‘reach’ them. But I also think this depends from the person: If I take myself for example I’m shocked if I see something very horrible and I do feel sorry for them and it starts me thinking about what I can do and how it is possible to help them. But in this world there are a lot of different people. People who don’t react like this or differently, there are people who it doesn’t matter at al, who are almost impossible to reach, I almost would say; who don’t have a heart. How are we going to reach them?, is it possible to reach them?, how big is this group? Or even worse people who actually hurting these animals, can we reach them? Are they laughing about this kind of advertising? Maybe they actually filmed it and put it on social media because they think it is funny or whatever they think in their awful minds. I think it is very good that PETA and other organisations are in social media but it is also ‘scary’ to know that the people who do these kind of things are there as well maybe they get even ‘ideas’ out of it.

  6. Hello Michael,

    It is a very good topic that you’ve chosen there. It is sad to say , but I think that shocking pictures of threatened, or beaten animals are the right way to do so. Indeed, they are putting into application the emotional side of people and to me it is the right way to make people react as animals won’t do it because they cannot. How would you advertise an animal protection, care ?
    It is so different than an actual business, it is not a lucrative business that we are talking about here, it is a caring cause. There is no money in the context, the aim is to make people realize that some animals are in danger and if we don’t react nobody will do it for them.

  7. ninastefani says:

    Hello Michael,
    Your post made me think about something that happened in France one month ago, even if there is no link with branding issu.
    A guy published a video of him torturing a kitten, shot him against a wall… it was terrifying! If youtube decide to remove the video, other alternative video website decided to show it in order to attract the attention of medias and of the police. Thanks to all the comments and sharing posts on facebook and twitter the police had been able to arrest him and he had been sentenced to one year in jail. Thanks to social medias and to the huge solidarity created by this bad buzz, the cat had been found, treated and bring back to his owners.

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