A common problem I see organizations and agencies run into when developing new campaigns and programs is forgetting that as highly educated and passionate advocates of the chosen issue, product, etc., we cease to be accurate representations of our target population at large. As a result, we may overestimate the importance of/interest in our issue outside of our walls and forget to take a step back and do a reality check on what our target audience is actually willing, able and likely to do.
The Fast Company Co.Exist website recently featured an article called, "A Bandage That Allows You to Save a Life While Patching up Your Cut," which highlights a new bone marrow donation registry kit placed in packaging alongside adhesive bandages. The product, created by Graham Douglas of Droga5 and his advertising and design students at the Miami Ad School in Brooklyn, debuted at TED earlier this week. The kit is a simple, yet elegant, solution to address a huge need, which is encouraging more participants to join the National Marrow Donor Program by collecting a small blood donation when they are already tending to a cut. Douglas's kit is a great example of someone putting themselves in the shoes of the audience they are trying to reach and developing an appeal that is delivered in exactly the right way and at the right time to get to "yes".
I would suggest that there are three simple questions that can help us consistently ensure greater success in this regard:
1. What is the specific problem are we trying to solve?
In Douglas's case, the problem was a critical shortage of bone marrow donors because of a lack of awareness of the need and a misunderstanding of what it takes to join the registry. I didn't know a simple blood test is all that is required (nothing as scary as a spinal tap like I imagined), and I'm sure many of you didn't either.
The more concise we can get in defining the problem we are trying to solve, the better. In this case, it wasn't about curing a larger disease or even getting people to donate bone marrow. It was about getting people registered on the donor list. Looking at breast cancer for example, a specific problem wouldn't be, "How do we reduce breast cancer?” or even, "How do we get more women to get their mammograms?” it would be, "How do we get more women to schedule their mammograms?"
2. What is the easiest thing someone could do to help in a meaningful way?
Providing your contact info and a blood sample is all that is needed to join the National Marrow Donor Program, but it can have a huge impact for individuals on the waiting list and in desperate need of a donor match. Douglas isn't asking people to commit to being a marrow donor or even to prick their own fingers to join the registry. He's just asking them to help by capturing a drop of blood while they are already bleeding and then send it in using the kit right in front of them. The assumption is if someone gets on the marrow donor list, he or she will most likely agree to help someone in need if presented with the opportunity as a match. Going back to our breast cancer example, getting the recommended health screenings and diagnosing cancer early goes a long way in preventing cancer deaths. In addition, once a woman schedules an appointment for a mammogram, she is more likely to show up for it, so just getting more women to schedule appointments could make a big difference in changing behavior.
3. How could we reach our target when the barriers to a "yes" are at their lowest?
Douglas's kit takes strong messaging around the importance of joining the marrow registry, provides easy tools to make the donation and pairs it with a box of bandages to ensure the "ask" occurs at a moment when the barriers to "yes" are the lowest.
Applying this to breast cancer, instead of asking women to pledge to get their mammograms or even come to a free local screening, it might be more successful to partner with Microsoft, Google or Apple to have an educational pop-up window show up on a consumer's screen prompting her to schedule a calendar reminder. Or, another idea would be to work with hospitals and primary care providers to proactively schedule mammogram appointments for women with the appropriate risk factors and have a corporate partner cover the co-pay.
By asking ourselves and our clients the three questions above, I'd suggest we could ensure our campaigns and programs consistently move beyond basic education and awareness to highly effective engagement and simple, but impactful, actions.
Chris Mann is an Account Director in Cone Communications’ Cause Branding group.