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Pirate Brand = Cash + Change

February 24, 2011

Checking out the booths at a sustainability festival, I saw cheerful solar panel salespeople and earnest green home architects. Then I saw THE booth. It had the most and coolest people. They were dressed all in black and nothing says cool like black; they blew the beige off the tofu crowd.

The logo on their t-shirts was a skull and a shepherd’s hook crossed with a trident.  I bet a few  had it inked on their skin along with other ‘tats’ seen just by lovers and doctors. When I realized it was the Sea Shepherd crew, I squealed. (I’ll never be cool. Squealing is so baby seal.) “I am so glad you’re here. When I heard that you got the Japanese whaling ships to go home I was proud of you. I want to give you some money.” And I did.

I’ve never seen a whale up close though my bathroom scale begs to differ. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society gets real close which makes nations uncomfortable.  SSC runs interference on Japanese whaling boats that enter the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary to do ‘research.’ I’ll let you do your own investigation, but killing hundreds of whales, including females and their calves to ascertain the health of a species sounds dodgy. Some say the real goal is selling profitable whale meat. Me, I prefer fish and honesty.

Having trolled ‘change the world’ websites, most bore me to tears. What The Sea Shepherd has going for it, besides a radical mission, fast ships and their own helicopter, is a big brand personality. Captain Paul Watson says “It takes pirates to catch pirates.”

The Sea Shepherd’s site is raw. A mom blogs about missing her son; another crew member writes of the quiet ice filled Antarctic waters and the tension of pending confrontation. Videos show boats at rest, at full speed and in defense. The captain speaks from the ship’s deck announcing success and he thanks you directly.

These pirates fire on all brand channels. You sense what it is like to be on deck and below;  you see the beautiful sea and the slaughtered whales. You feel the crews’ purpose and fear. They get you thinking and connect so honestly that they draw you in. They ask for your help and even say thanks. You see, feel, think, relate and are called to act. Combine this complete engagement experience with a pirate aesthetic and you’ve got gold: a dedicated movement that donates more time and more money.

*PS. I don’t know how the seal hunt came up but it did. I said I was okay with the Inuit hunting seals. The booth went very quiet. I added ‘They use every part of that animal.’ Still silent.  (I wish I had added ‘okay not the big brown eyes.’)  Now, who is ready for lunch?

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