Applying Social Marketing to Koala
Conservation: The “Leave It”
Patricia David, Bo Pang and Sharyn Rundle-Thiele
Koala populations are declining, and there are needs to reverse this trend.
Using social marketing which aims to change behavior for social or envi-
ronmental beneﬁt, this case study demonstrates how social marketing was
applied to achieve environmental change. A pilot program name “Leave It”
was designed and developed with dog owners and experts including koala
conservation ofﬁcers and dog trainers in order to reduce dog and koala
interactions. A four-week dog obedience training program was implemented,
and a mixed method outcome evaluation was undertaken. Results indicate
that ﬁve of seven dog behaviors measures were changed from baseline to
follow-up, namely sit, stay, come back when called every time, wildlife
aversion, and stay quiet on command. Findings of this pilot program provide
evidence of the effectiveness and potential of social marketing to change
behaviors in an environmental context.
Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) population levels are steadily decreasing in South
East Queensland (Redlands Koala Conservation Strategy 2016). Primary koala
threats include urban development, fragmentation of habitat, trafﬁc, and predation
P. David (&)B. Pang S. Rundle-Thiele
Social Marketing at Grifﬁth, Grifﬁth University, Nathan, Australia
©Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019
D. Z. Basil et al. (eds.), Social Marketing in Action,
Springer Texts in Business and Economics,
by dogs (McAlpine et al., 2015; Law et al., 2017). In urban and semi-rural areas,
mortality from domestic dogs poses a signiﬁcant and often underestimated threat to
koalas and other urban wildlife. According to the Queensland Department of
Environment and Heritage Protection (2008), dog attacks and predation are the third
most common cause of death in koalas after habitat loss and vehicle strikes. It is
estimated that more than 600 koalas have been attacked by dogs over the past
15 years in the local council area that forms the basis of this study. Although
various control measures that lower the likelihood of dog and koala interactions
have been identiﬁed, including reducing pets’roaming periods, setting up buffer
zones, provision of wildlife corridors, and placing a pole against a fence for koala
egress, calls have been made for practitioners to be open to different ways of
thinking to effectively engage the target community with the use of a social science
approach to improve conservation policy, practice, and outcomes.
A social marketing pilot program named Leave It (see www.leaveit.com.au) was
co-created with dog owners. The program drew on expert advice (e.g., koala
conservation, environmental scientists, and dog training professionals) to deliver a
program that engaged dog owners to participate in a training program, which had
wildlife aversion training embedded as one of many skills. The overall aim of Leave
It was to help residents change their dogs’behaviors through four training sessions.
Leave It focused on the delivery of dog obedience training and was priced at
$AUD150 for four sessions. These sessions were designed to decrease dog and
koala interactions in the local council region over time. Leave It focused on helping
dog owners to establish effective basic control of their dogs and training empha-
sized a series of behaviors including sit, stay, and koala aversion (Leave It).
A community event DogFest was launched to raise awareness for the Leave It
training program. The campaign was designed based on the Theory of Planned
Behavior (TPB) (Ajzen, 1991). According to the TPB, three factors contribute to
behavioral intentions and in turn behavior, namely subjective norms, attitudes
toward the behavior, and perceived behavioral control. Data analysis indicated that
the TPB model could explain the intentions of people to conﬁne and restrain their
dogs with 66% of variance explained, a level that is higher than most of other
studies that have utilized the TPB to explain intention. Moreover, the provision of
dog training for dog owners was designed to improve perceived behavioral control,
which in turn was expected to change intentions to conﬁne and restrain their dogs in
addition to increasing the dog owners’control over their dog.
One canine expert was invited to partner with Leave It delivering positive dog
management and wildlife aversion skills for the dog trainers leading the Leave It
program. The canine expert demonstrated a range of positive dog training principles
in addition to on koala aversion. The canine expert delivered one session to six dog
trainers who indicated interest in partnering with Leave It. Leave It trainers were
free to include koala aversion in their training programs where appropriate. The
one-day canine expert led session covered a range of operant conditioning strate-
gies, training plans, and canine problem-solving.
380 P. David et al.
SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities,
Leave It was positively received by the majority of participants, and willingness
to re-engage with the program was very strong.
DogFest was well attended (more than 1500 dog owners), positively received,
and community intention to attend in future years was very high.
Australians are more inclined to accept pets as a potential conservation hazard
than their overseas counterparts (Hall et al., 2016).
There were confusions between Leave It and DogFest brands.
Program uptake for available Leave It group sessions was 31.25%. Uptake
levels were impacted by limited promotion time and program availability (only
one four-week period was available, which coincided with peak holiday season).
Pilot was reliant on volunteers leading to poor advice in some instances.
There was limited time to administer the pilot (10 weeks from approval to ﬁnal
Leave It session delivery, 3 weeks to promote Leave It).
Dog ability levels are low (sit, stay, Leave It, etc.).
Community is willing to partner in koala protection programs that are fun and
dog-focused (not stigmatizing and victim blaming).
There is little competition in the region.
City council is willing to provide additional funding to support the program.
There existed a lack of interest in dog training from some members of the
Low dog abilities are sit, stay, come when called, and wildlife aversion.
25 Applying Social Marketing to Koala Conservation …381
The program targeted residents of the Redland area who are dog owners. The
primary target audience of the program has a dog as a family pet. The audience
believes that some dogs can pose a risk to koalas, but not small dogs. They also
believe that dogs feel safe when they have their own space, such as a crate.
The secondary target audience consists of people that have a dog for security
reasons. They believe a dog should roam freely in their backyard at night because
they have a fenced area, they can go to the toilet, and they bark otherwise. Dogs of
the target audience have received some type of training, such as puppy pre-school.
However, despite having received training, dogs do not respond to basic obedience
behaviors such as come back every time they are called, not chase things, and stay
quiet on command.
Target Audience Barriers and Benefits
Research has shown that in order for people to control their dogs, they have to train
their dogs. A series of questions about perceived beneﬁts and barriers were asked in
a community survey. On average, the target audience had a perception that by
conﬁning their dogs, they would be helping protect wildlife (beneﬁt). On the other
hand, the ﬁndings from the survey showed the target audience thought it would be
cruel to conﬁne their dogs, and that a barking nuisance could be created by
engaging in this behavior (barrier).
Following community based formative research identifying that 2 out of 3 people
report that their dog does not respond to basic verbal commands, Leave It was
designed as a program that focuses on basic dog obedience training; given that
training basics must be in place before koala aversion can be taught. The overall
aim of Leave It was to help local residents to improve their dogs’behavior and over
time decrease dog and koala interactions. Leave It focused on helping dog owners
to establish effective basic control of their dogs.
Speciﬁc objectives for the Leave It campaign were set according to the RE-AIM
framework (Table 25.1).
382 P. David et al.
Table 25.1 Leave It pilot program objectives
Reach 30% session uptake
1000 unique visits on Leave It website
10 registrations in the Leave It program
1000 DogFest attendees
Effectiveness All dog obedience abilities will increase 10% through the training program
Dog owners’perceived barriers to den the dog during the night will be
signiﬁcantly lower after the program
Adoption High stakeholder satisfaction rating (6.5 out of 7)
High stakeholder perceived beneﬁt in pilot program participation
(6.5 out of 7)
Implementation Positive experience with DogFest (6.5 out 7)
High Leave It registrant satisfaction (6.5 out of 7)
Maintenance High intention to participate in Leave It again in the future (10% increase)
In order to deﬁne a clear and potentially effective Leave It pilot program, six
co-design workshops were held with residents of the local council area who gave
their informed consent to participate and who owned one or more dogs. Co-design
sessions started by eliciting dog owner opinions of ten campaigns that had previ-
ously been implemented to decrease koala and dog interactions. A group discussion
followed to gain insights into program features, assisting the project team to
understand what dog owners valued.
Participants were then split into groups of three or four. They were asked to
design an effective campaign that they felt would engage community members in
the local council area to decrease dog and koala interactions. Co-design workshops
were audio recorded, and ﬁeld notes were made. Workshop discussions were
transcribed, and trends and patterns within and across groups were analyzed.
Taken together, co-design sessions highlighted that a positive, dog-focused
program that delivered training, giving dog owners the skills needed to avoid
wildlife, and was promoted through community events, could be offered within the
project timeframe. The program actively avoided linking koala fatality to dogs and
dog owners, so the target audience would engage with the program. Participants
also indicated training should be convenient in terms of location and timing in order
to increase commitment.
The competitors of the Leave It training program consisted of other training
companies in the Redlands area. Companies such as Positive Dog Training com-
peted directly with Leave It especially in location. Their competitive advantage was
25 Applying Social Marketing to Koala Conservation …383
the fact they were established companies, while Leave It was a new program.
However, Leave It was a city council endorsed program and was positioned as a
program with a substantially lower cost, ensuring that more people in the com-
munity could afford the program. Another competition for the Leave It program to
be considered is the opposite behavior: not engaging in a training program. There
are beneﬁts such as not spending time and money with registration. These are
important factors to consider before creating the marketing strategy.
Marketing Strategy (Product, Price, Place, Promotion)
Leave It was designed as a program that focuses on basic dog obedience training;
given that training basics must be in place before koala aversion can be taught. The
overall aim of Leave It was to help residents to improve their dogs’behavior and
over time decrease dog and koala interactions in Redland City Council. In social
marketing, product in its most direct form should be considered as a tangible pro-
duct, or even a service that can be offered for purchase. Drawn upon the TPB
framework, the core product for Leave It consisted of a four-week dog training
program, which had koala aversion embedded as one of the skills in the program.
Leave It focused on helping dog owners to establish effective basic control of their
dogs, which was designed based on the perceived behavioral control construct in the
TPB model. Steve Austin, Certiﬁed Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed
(CPTD-KA), partnered with Leave It delivering positive dog training and wildlife
aversion training to Leave It dog trainers on June 2, 2017. Steve Austin demon-
strated a range of positive dog training principles and provided training focused on
koala aversion. Training was delivered to a total of 6 dog trainers who indicated
interest in partnering with Leave It. Training offered by Steve Austin transferred
skills allowing trainers to include koala aversion in training programs where
appropriate. Leave It was designed as a multi-strategy, pilot social enterprise pro-
gram and featured recruitment and awareness building activities which commenced
at RSPCA Million Paws Walk, Indigi Day Out, and concluded with DogFest.
Research was undertaken to understand the costs of a training package for dog
owners in the Redland area. Leave It offered a package of four obedience training
sessions charging a lower price that the average market price. The training package
was advertised at AUD $150 per dog. In order to ensure an attractive offer, a
discounted rate of AUD $120 was also promoted, as well as bundle discounts for
dog owners that enrolled two dogs or more into the program.
384 P. David et al.
In social marketing, price is the cost the consumer incurs, which in its most
direct form is monetary cost. For Leave It, the fully listed price was AUD$150 for
four training sessions. Moreover, the training sessions required the dog owner’s
time, energy, and consistent commitment, which also represented costs for partic-
ipants in this social marketing pilot program. The program attempted to reduce
costs by offering training sessions in convenient locations, limiting the length of
each session to no longer than 90 min, and offering various training options to best
suit dog owners’demands.
The training sessions offered were within the Redland City Council area in
Thornlands, Cleveland, and surrounding areas (Manly and Springwood). The
trainers who provided Leave It training were experienced and qualiﬁed individuals
who had completed training with Steve Austin on June 2, 2017. Ten dog training
businesses in the Redland area were invited to partner with Leave It. Trainers were
shortlisted from an initial list by interviews with experts. In addition, a Web search
for local trainers in the Redland region was conducted. All potential trainers were
contacted and screened for suitability according to Steve Austin’s criteria. Given
the short notice and training requirements for trainers to supply the location, the list
was narrowed down to locals who had experience, were available within the project
timeframe, could supply the venue, and were qualiﬁed according to Steve Austin’s
criteria. The dog training businesses that have delivered Leave It were Positive
Response Dog Training (https://www.positiveresponse.net.au/) and ABC Dog
To promote Leave It, a targeted integrated promotional strategy was implemented
to reach dog owners residing in the Redland City Council area. The main pro-
motional methods included: Web site (www.leaveit.com.au), Leave It ﬂyers, email
marketing, social media marketing (Facebook and Instagram), a promotional event
(DogFest), and event exhibitions leading up to pilot program launch (RSPCA
Million Paws Walk, Indigi Day Out). The Leave It promotion commenced on May
21, 2017, giving a total of 3 weeks to promote the pilot program. All the promotion
materials were aiming to change residents’attitudes toward dog training, which was
designed based on the TPB framework.
DogFest was a free event held at Capalaba Regional Park two weeks before Leave
It commenced. DogFest delivered a “mini-festival”feel, aiming to increase audi-
ence engagement, extend awareness, and to promote partnerships with retailers.
Food trucks including a coffee van, a pizza stall, and a sausage sizzle were offered.
25 Applying Social Marketing to Koala Conservation …385
A wide variety of different retailers were present selling dog treats (puppicinos, dog
beer, and dog tea), dog food, pet photography, dog washing, dog grooming, dog
clothing, and more. Importantly, dog trainers and obedience clubs were present to
deliver talks and obedience displays for interested dog owners. DogFest attracted
over 1500 attendees.
All promotion strategies featured the Web site link, where detailed Leave It pro-
gram information was made available. The Web site contained information on
Leave It session types, the Leave It trainers, frequently asked questions, and pro-
gram pricing. Further, the Web site provided information communicating the
DogFest program of events.
Flyers and Emails
Both DogFest and Leave It were promoted through ﬂyers and emails. Over 2500
ﬂyers were distributed (Fig. 25.1). Over 450 emails were sent out to Redland
Fig. 25.1 Flyer promoting DogFest
386 P. David et al.
A Facebook event was created for DogFest and promoted to Redland residents by
Redland City Council. Over the course of the Facebook campaign, a total of 37,000
people were reached with 7200 people viewing the DogFest event page and 1000
people responding to the event, indicating interest in attending, sharing a post, and
more. In addition, an Instagram account for Leave It was created in order to run a
social media competition with the hashtag #leaveit2017. The aim of this strategy
was to increase engagement with the brand and to raise awareness of both DogFest
and Leave It.
The DogFest event attracted over 1500 attendees indicating that Leave It reached 5–
10% of the 21,000 dog owners in the local council area. Speciﬁcally, the visitor
survey sought to understand attendees’attitudes toward the event and their intention
to attend the DogFest in the following year. Attitudes were measured with three
seven-point bipolar scales, where respondents had to choose from opposite adjec-
tives such as “Unpleasant–Pleasant”and intentions were measured using one
unipolar scale from 1 to 7. The visitor survey was emailed to 319 people, with a
response rate of 19.1%. Results show that attitudes toward DogFest were generally
high. In addition, over 90% of all respondents reported a positive experience with
DogFest, less than 5% a neutral reaction, and there was no negative experience
reported. Next, visitors were asked how likely it would be for them to attend
DogFest next year, if it was held again. 92.1% of respondents replied it was likely
they would attend. When asked their opinions on the DogFest, the event visitors
provided positive responses:
Dogs got to socialize, and I saw vendors, vets, and groomers I may not have seen or been to
before. Def needs to be back again next year. (Visitor’s survey respondent)
the training tip talks and the stalls and free gifts. (Visitor’s survey respondent)
To evaluate the overall satisfaction with Leave It and to understand areas for
improvement, four questions were included in the Leave It follow-up survey. Over
85% of respondents reported a positive experience and satisfaction with the training
program. Participants were also asked whether they would participate in Leave It
training program again next year if the program was run again and two-thirds
indicated future participation in the program.
Field notes on 15 dogs that participated in the training sessions were collected
over the four-week period. Trainers recorded the progress of each dog over the
course of the training period and commented on the performance of both dogs and
their owners during the training sessions. Successful koala aversion behaviors were
noted for most of the dogs at the end of the Leave It program.
25 Applying Social Marketing to Koala Conservation …387
Discussion and Lessons Learned
This case study demonstrated that a program co-created with dog-owning residents
that was fun, dog-focused, and helped owners to understand what they needed to do
could effectively engage people. The pilot program, which was designed by dog
owners and planned and implemented in partnership with stakeholders, was well
received and positively evaluated. The process enabled effective engagement with
dog owners and generated positive feedback and promising behavioral change
outcomes. Additionally, having received instructions in koala aversion training,
local dog trainers are now aware of conservation challenges and they are able and
encouraged to integrate koala aversion elements into their regular training offerings,
creating change that can last beyond the pilot program.
The program was valued by members of the local council community given they
were willing to pay AUD $150 for four training sessions, which suggests that a
program can be delivered in the longer term, and revenue can be generated to
sustain programs. The results of this study provide pilot evidence that community
members can voluntarily be engaged in activities that contribute to koala conser-
vation and they are willing to pay for specialized dog obedience and koala aversion
behavioral training. Upscaling this pilot program where two-thirds of participants
are willing to continue to participate in the program can deliver a sustained revenue
stream to support ongoing program administration that is not reliant on public
funding. Results demonstrated that social marketing can effectively engage dog
owners and can attract dog owners to enroll in a four-week paid training program
that improves dogs’koala aversion skills. Participants who attended the project
expressed high intention to rejoin DogFest and the Leave It project, which indicates
potential for program sustainability and alterations of community norms in relation
to dog training in the long term. This program is currently being developed into
city-wide implementation with the support of the local city council. By scaling the
program up to a city-wide implementation, an added beneﬁt is raising awareness of
the importance of dog training for wildlife conservation, and word of mouth can
play an important role.
Leave It was designed and implemented in a short timeframe of 10 weeks,
limiting the core dog training program offering to one four-week program that
coincided with a peak holiday period. The program was limited to group dog
training sessions, which limits the types of dogs that can participate (e.g., dogs must
be socialized). A further limitation was the program which was only promoted via
free channels such as social media. No paid broadcast media was used which
limited broader community awareness. Delivery of sequenced alternatives is needed
for enrolments in the advanced option given very few dogs are trained to this level.
Limited lead time was available in this pilot project to promote the community
event and to secure dog trainers and training alternatives to advertise. Longer
project time frames are needed to improve outcomes attained. Based on experience
gained in this project, a 12-week time frame is needed to generate awareness for the
program, word of mouth, and to promote the event within the community targeted.
388 P. David et al.
Lead time ahead of promotion is needed to ensure a sufﬁcient cross section of dog
trainers, and training options can be secured. Further, broadcast media such as local
radio is recommended to generate wider awareness for Leave It. Together, these
changes would assist to increase the number of training registrations due to more
available options and time to promote the program.
1. What is the core product Leave It provides to the target audience?
2. What “exchange”does Leave It offer to encourage dog owners to take
their service? How could this be improved?
3. Do you have suggestions for improving their promotional efforts?
4. What can be offered to dog owners that do not feel conﬁdent to bring their
dogs to training sessions due to dog behavioral issues?
5. How can Leave It improve the evaluation with a better response rate?
Carins and Rundle-Thiele’s(2014) paper identiﬁed that behavior change is more
likely when more of social marketing’s benchmarks are used. Find a benchmark
framework and using information presented in the case identify the benchmarks that
Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision
Processes, 50(2), 179–211.
Carins, J. E., & Rundle-Thiele, S. R. (2014). Eating for the better: A social marketing review
(2000–2012). Public Health Nutrition, 17(7), 1628–1639.
Hall, C. M., Adams, N. A., Bradley, J. S., Bryant, K. A., Davis, A. A., Dickman, C. R., …Calver,
M. C. (2016). Community attitudes and practices of urban residents regarding predation by pet
cats on wildlife: An international comparison. PLoS One, 11(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/
Law, B., Caccamo, G., Roe, P., Truskinger, A., Brassil, T., Gonsalves, L., et al. (2017).
Development and ﬁeld validation of a regional, management-scale habitat model: A koala
Phascolarctos cinereus case study. Ecology and Evolution, 7(18), 7475–7489.
McAlpine, C., Lunney, D., Melzer, A., Menkhorst, P., Phillips, S., Phalen, D., et al. (2015).
Conserving koalas: A review of the contrasting regional trends, outlooks and policy challenges.
Biological Conservation, 192, 226–236.
25 Applying Social Marketing to Koala Conservation …389
Queensland Government, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (2008). Koalas and
dogs. Queensland, Australia. Retrieved from: https://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/wildlife/koalas/pdf/
koalas-and-dogs.pdf (accessed May 2017).
Redlands City Council, Redlands Koala Conservation Strategy. (2016). Retrieved from: https://
2016.pdf (accessed May 2017).
390 P. David et al.