How do you get people to stop bad habits, adopt good ones or do something about an issue that may not be on their radar? While there’s no magic formula for an impactful cause campaign, here are five elements:
1. A simple, inspiring messaging: What you call your campaign matters. Successful ones have a compelling, simple handle, such as “The Unforgotten” for gun safety and “#ITouchMyselfProject” for breast cancer awareness.
2. Strong visual storytelling: Studies show that people are driven more by an image or short video than by a text-based, fully rational appeal. UNICEF Chile’s “One Shot on Cyber Bullying” campaign, for example, used traditional images of fear and added a modern twist. Dramatic black-and-white photos titled “Fatty,” “Nerd” and “Weak” appeared on billboards and in magazines, showing groups of teenage students aiming their smartphones at peers as if in a firing squad.
3. A physical element: Despite the importance of digital media, there’s a place for including an element that people can interact with in the real world. The idea behind “The Unforgotten” was simple but visually disturbing: Place faceless mannequins, dressed in the clothes of victims of gun violence, around Chicago in the places where the victims were shot. Passersby could read the story of the victim’s death.
4. An emphasis on social sharing and earned media: Successful campaigns don’t rely on one type of storytelling; they provide multiple media types designed for what’s effective in each social channel. The rail-crossing safety campaign “Dumb Ways to Die” was a watershed in cause marketing thanks to its lighthearted animated song. But more than that, it invaded social media and, perhaps most powerfully, drove people to own the campaign by creating parody safety videos of the original.
5. A request for personal action: Campaigns need to ask people to do something small as a next step and a sign of commitment. One of the best examples is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised more than $115 million for Lou Gehrig’s disease research. The goal was to get people to dump a bucket of ice water over their heads, record it and challenge their friends to do the same on Facebook. Raising funds was the next small step.