Some campaigns are simple fundraising asks with direct mail and email appeals, along with social media posts and other marketing outlets.
Other campaigns are a bit larger: They have a name, a slogan and you’re going to splash them everywhere. Billboards, TV and media outlets, social media, email, your website, brochures and more.
I’d like to discuss the latter. Specifically the importance of including people OUTSIDE your organization in the conversation before launch.
Today’s lessons come via Canada and the U.K.
Regina is the capital of Canadian province Saskatchewan. It’s located in the south-central area of the province and has a population of about 250,000. I’ve never been there but I’ve been told it’s a nice place to visit.
Ask a ten-year old boy to say the name of the city and I can almost guarantee they’ll stop for a sec, look again, smirk and maybe even let out a little laugh. Such is life when the name of your city is Regina.
A few months ago the organization in charge of local tourism changed its name to “Experience Regina.” To promote the city and encourage tourism, they attached new slogans to the name, including the following:
- Show us your Regina
- The city that rhymes with fun
I’ll bet you can already guess what happened.
After launching a wide “Experience Regina” campaign, they were forced to apologize for the rebranding, especially the above two slogans. They apologized to local residents who felt the new campaign made the city the butt of many new jokes.
People felt the campaign was disrespectful and that it sexualized the city for no reason.
It’s important to note that “Experience Regina” theme was based on a song that actually made the city popular, especially after it was shown on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (See :45 second mark of this video) So they started with a positive but it veered into a negative.
How does that happen?
When your organization is considering a large campaign, there’s a chance you’ll hire an outside marketing firm to help with the creative and design. That’s a good thing!
The problems start when groupthink sets in. Everyone is thinking on the same wavelengths and not looking at the campaign with a critical eye.
That’s when I advise organizations to share the basic elements of the campaign with a few people who have no association with the organization. Let those people, even for five minutes, review the campaign name, slogan and some of the images and design that will be used.
Why do this? Because you need to hear an outsider’s opinion. They may spot things that you completely missed.
In fact, they could save you a lot of backlash. If Experience Regina had shared the campaign and slogans with a few local residents, they might have seen the faces of disappointment and anger with the chosen slogans. They would’ve heard how insulted people were.
When the campaign launched, Tim Reid- the CEO of Experience Regina- said: “It is an opportunity. When you travel globally and people talk about it, there’s a moment where people ask what’s the city called again? It is what it is, so don’t shy away from it.”
In the end, he had to apologize for making the city’s name a laughingstock. The egg on his face? Wouldn’t have been there if Tim and his team had gone outside the office and simply polled a few local residents on the street below.
Lemme share another campaign with you to hit the point home.
Oh My God
In 2019, Breast Cancer Now in the U.K. launched a countrywide campaign.
They found that women dealing with breast cancer felt lonely and isolated.
The goal of the campaign? To encourage people to keep in touch, visit and befriend these women. What an excellent idea for a campaign!
As part of the campaign launch, they used the below slogan:
I’ll give you a few seconds to pick up your jaw from the floor.
But in case you didn’t get it:
Vicki Saynor, a breast cancer patient, published a Facebook post that went viral instantly. In her post, she called the campaign “crass,” “rude” and “ill-informed.”
She criticized the campaign by reminding everyone that breast cancer often involves the removal of one or both breasts. “Because two is stronger than one” became a massive negative message instead of the positive one the organization was trying to portray.
(Another of the campaign slogans was “they say good things come in twos.” 😬)
It’s obvious that Breast Cancer Now had absolutely no intention of offending breast cancer patients and survivors in the U.K. Their intentions were good.
But their messaging was off. Why? Because everyone internally thought it made sense. But no one bothered to see how those messages would be translated by a wider audience.
Ask For Their Opinion
There’s nothing wrong with asking a few people to review an upcoming campaign for five minutes. Watch their face, their body language and take in their feedback. I guarantee that the Breast Cancer Now campaign never would’ve launched if they had done that.
Your staff, the Board, donors and others in your inner circle may think your campaign is awesome and ready to go. Take a few minutes and ask those in the outer circle.
P.S. Campaigns that want to be cheeky, a little off-color or even include a curse word are ok with me. As long as they’ve been tested and the organization understands and is willing to deal with any backlash. If you want to learn more, check out this post I wrote about using four-letter words in your fundraising campaigns.
You’ll $!*%in love it!
Does your organization need to improve its fundraising and marketing efforts? Let’s partner together to create a strategy which helps you stabilize revenue and provide sustainability for all your programs!