• Business Business

How Mutual of Omaha is reviving a TV classic to teach people to protect the planet — and themselves: 'We really are inspired by a message of hope'

"Television can make people care about causes that they would otherwise not know about."

"Television can really change people's lives."

Photo Credit: Mutual of Omaha

In the 1960s, when door-to-door insurance salespeople were still an integral part of Mutual of Omaha's business, they would use the previous night's blockbuster TV show, "Wild Kingdom," to connect with potential customers. 

Instead of knocking on someone's door with the line, "How about that 'Wild Kingdom' last night?" the insurance company is now bringing the show back on television and digital platforms for new and old generations to share, at a time when protecting the planet and its endangered species is more urgent than ever.

Insurance companies have been on the front lines of the climate crisis — with home insurance companies declining to insure homes at risk of wildfires, floods or hurricanes, and pollution increasing health issues like dementia. 

But as Mutual of Omaha tells it, the focus isn't on crisis, but possibility. By aligning its brand messaging with one of conservation and solutions, it hopes to gain brand advocates who want to protect our planet and their families. 

The Cool Down spoke with the new co-host of "Wild Kingdom" — a millennial ecologist and the first Black woman to host a wildlife show — Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, as well as Jen Wulf, Mutual of Omaha's vice president of brand strategy and engagement. They told TCD about how they're using nostalgia, the power of TV, and messages of hope to connect with customers across generations.

💚 Less doom and gloom 

"There's a lot of doom and gloom and there's a lot of different ways to think about the problems facing us. ... We really are inspired by a message of hope," Wulf said. "A lot of the experts you'll see are people saying, 'There's a lot of challenges we're facing, but we've also seen great success.' We're really focused on highlighting and telling other people's stories — and their success stories."

🛡️ Branding protection

"From a business standpoint, the products we sell from life insurance to Medicare insurance are really about protection, protecting people, protecting their families when they're gone. We tie 'Wild Kingdom' together to Mutual of Omaha as a brand on this thread of protection." 

"Television can change people's lives."
Photo Credit: Mutual of Omaha

Ⓔ Emotion beats ESG

Supporting the new "Wild Kingdom" is an awareness play for the insurance brand, not a sales tool. "It's not necessarily checking a box on an ESG [Environmental, Social, Governance] report," she said. "It's really about the nostalgia that ties to our brand. The goodwill, the emotion, the feeling. It's an awareness driver for our brand among a certain age. Our products are very much targeted toward people aged 50-plus, and that's where that nostalgia lies.

"We really use it as an inspiration point to say again, how do we protect our nature and our animals and our spaces and their habitats? And how do we inspire the next generation to do the same?"

➡️ Next-gen role models

Dr. Rae's own inspiration to become an environmental scientist came in part from watching "Wild Kingdom" as a child at her grandparents' house, something she has said she had already written about for her memoir, "Wild Life," before she was even asked to join the show's new incarnation. Growing up in an urban environment, her access to nature came from TV. 

"I would say, 'I want to do that!' The only thing that was confusing was how do you become that person, what are the steps one takes to become a nature show host?" she told TCD. "I got into the wildlife conservation space because of that passion that was ignited by the show."

Fast forward to a study abroad program in Southern Kenya studying wildlife management, which was a "profound moment" for her. 

"Going from urban girl my whole life to being 20 years old dropped in the East African bush — that kind of whiplash motivated me. It was in that moment that I realized, 'I'm doing the nature show host stuff, but without the cameras.' And for me, for so long, that was just as good. It was just as important and it was just as satisfying."

💫 The power of possibility

"My view is even less about hope, but more about possibility," Dr. Rae said. "We have the answers. We have the tools. We have the knowledge. We know exactly what to do. It could just happen if people take those steps that scientists have laid out. And there are other possibilities where it doesn't look so good in the future. 

"[We] are in this work because we are hopeful that the forces beyond us will help us move toward those very bright possibilities. We really believe that we can get it right." 

📺 Sustainability storytelling

"My inspiration came from television. Television can change people's lives," Dr. Rae told us. "Television can bring people into nature. Television can make people care about causes that they would otherwise not know about."

🌎 Breaking barriers

With Dr. Rae as co-host, along with veteran wildlife expert Peter Gros, the show is also about making science and the outdoors more inclusive. "To people everywhere thinking only a certain type of person is in nature, or only a certain type of person is an environmental leader or has knowledge about it or shows up in the media, now we can show Black women do it too."

🦅 Success stories

"Bald eagles are actually my favorite species," Dr. Rae said. "... I cry in this episode, but it's tears of joy, because there was an eagle that was terribly injured by a person and was rehabilitated at this amazing veterinary care and rehabilitation sanctuary called PAWS in the Pacific Northwest, and then we were able to release her back into the wild. ... It's a story of how everyday people can be conservation heroes."

"We have a really interesting episode about puffins on an island in Maine — it was a then-and-now," added Wulf. "[Former host] Marlin Perkins had visited the island back in the '70s, and this is a revisit to that to say, 'How's it going?' They did some very interesting conservation and science methods to be able to bring those puffins back to the island to breed, and it's working. It's the only place where puffins exist in the U.S."

🛋️ Climate action from your couch

"The most important thing we can do is educate ourselves," suggests Dr. Rae. "It's great to get hands-on with animals, to do some volunteer work. But gaining knowledge is equally as important. You can sit on your couch and have a bowl of popcorn and learn about wild animals, and that better positions you to be an environmental leader than a lot of other things. I want people to feel that it can be easy, it can be accessible, you can be a person who's never stepped foot in the outdoors, and still be included."  

"Wild Kingdom" is available on Peacock, NBC.com, and WildKingdom.com. The series will run for 52 weeks with 26 original episodes, each aired twice. Mutual of Omaha has committed to three seasons on NBC. 

Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider