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January 21, 2010

Hey CAMH I’m Quitting Quitting

3 minute read, in Behaviour / Habits / Marketing / Needle/Mission/Agenda / Social Issues

Screen shot 2010-01-21 at 10.42.20 AMThe Centre of Addiction and Mental Health Foundation’s (CAMH Foundation) new fundraising campaign kicked off in January. Piggybacking on the January New Year’s resolution trend, the iquit campaign promises to help you succeed in achieving your goals while raising money for CAMH. When I started seeing the posters around town I wondered about the connection between ‘quitting’ bad habits and the CAMH Foundation’s mission.

Being clever is clever.  But while raising money is obviously vital to an organization like CAMH Foundation you need to tell me why I need to give a shit. Why should I sign up? How is my participation connected to the issue beyond raising funds?

So, I went off in search of the answer.

Because I tend to think of CAMH primarily as a mental health organization, I was a bit confused. Does quitting burgers and cigarettes support better mental health? Probably, but it felt like a bit of a stretch. So, I went looking a bit deeper.

It turns out, the CAMH Foundation’s mission is “to raise funds for CAMH.” So, theoretically, this initiative is within that scope. CAMH (not the Foundation but the organization itself) has a  mission is to ” help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues.”

Ok, it was starting to become clear to me. This is about breaking addictions. Perhaps the purpose of the campaign was to shine a light on CAMH’s work on addiction which is often in the shadows of it’s mental health work. This was about building up addiction’s profile within the organization. Or was it?

So, off I go the the iquit homepage-already feeling like I’ve had to do too many mental acrobatics to make the connection between the campaign and the work CAMH does. When I get to the homepage all I could find was: “dedicate your New Year’s resolution and give it up for CAMH!”

So, I resolve there really is no connection at all; this is just a fundraising initiative. I’m not supposed to feel any closer to the cause by engaging in this campaign. I’m resolved to say that this initiative doesn’t pass the “why should I give a shit” test.

Most people would stop here. But, being the determined super-sleuth I am, I dig yet deeper. And, buried in the President and CEO’s message is the following: “By joining the i quit campaign, you are not only improving your quality of life but also helping people who struggle with their own personal addictions.” And shazam there is the magic bullet I was looking for. This is about breaking your own personal addictions and at the same time, connecting with those who have their own demons to wrestle with. If stopping eating pastries is hard, just think about putting the kibosh on a heroine addiction. It’s an opportunity to empathize and support.  It’s good. It makes sense.

This message is the right one, but it is in the wrong place. I’ve had to work way too hard to figure it out. And believe me, others won’t be bothered.

Here’s my message, and I promise, I’ll put it right up front so you don’t miss it.  In any piece of communication you have one shot to tell people why they should go out of their way to join up with your cause, issue or organization. You have one opportunity to get them to buy your product, go to your website, or give to your cause. The reason I should give a shit can’t be an afterthought, it needs to be front and center. Otherwise, all the cleverness in the world is just wasted creativity in search of a higher purpose.

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