In 2001, when conducting a study of memorable environmental messages, the authors asked several hundred people to share a memorable message with us and to tell us the source of that message. By far the most commonly cited message was attributed to Smokey Bear and was typically repeated as, ‘Only you can prevent forest fires’ or, in some cases, just ‘Smokey Bear’ as both the source and the memorable message. We have since learned that Smokey Bear is perhaps the most successful
advertising campaign in US history, having reached at least three generations of Americans and having extraordinary recognition. Consider the following facts (Lawter 1994):
• The Smokey Bear campaign was initiated in the 1940s. • In the following decade wildfires in the national forests were reduced dramat-
ically at the same time as visitation increased. • By 1964 Smokey Bear was receiving more mail than anyone else in
Washington DC, including the President of the United States. A unique zip code (20252) was assigned to Smokey to manage his incoming mail.