January 11, 2010

The Poppy Effect

3 minute read, in Audiences/Communities of Interest/Community/Communities of Practice / Brand Strategy / Generative Economy / Impact / Marketing / Meaningful Marketing / Needle/Mission/Agenda / Participation / Social Innovation

Let’s call it the “Poppy Effect.” You spend a couple of bucks on a Poppy around Remembrance Day to recall Canadian Veterans and to support the efforts of the Royal Canadian Legion. The Poppy Effect sets the barrier to entry very low, so that you are inclined to sign on for a cause. By opting to wear the Poppy you’ve aligned yourself with the issue at hand. It’s now the organization’s role to cultivate that relationship so you become a supporter, and ultimately an evangelist.

Many organizations have leveraged the Poppy Effect to great success; Pink, white, yellow, red ribbons abound all for good causes organizers hope will, in turn, lead you to give greater support to breast cancer, violence against women, Canadian troops, and AIDS. Certainly CharityWater is the model for how to attract people to a party, and then turn those revellers into an army of supporters. A Toronto Twestival in support of the organization raised over $6,000. Not a whole heck of alot of money, but a good start in relationship building.

Think Bill Murray in What About Bob. It’s all about the baby steps my friend. What’s the easiest, most appealing way to get folks headed down the path to deeply identify with your issue, cause or organization?

Refugee Week Banner

That’s what’s so great about UK Refugee Week’s Simple Acts Campaign. The Campaign offers up 20 micro-sized activities to help people see refugees in a new and different way. Simple Acts are as easy to do as  Cook a Dish from Another Country with recipes provided on the site. Once you register to complete a Simple Act, you indicate that you’ve completed it on the tracker. To date, over 7000 Simple Acts have been completed.

The other key benefit of the “Poppy Effect” is that by seeing others wear the poppy, you get to feel like you’re part of a community that is creating social momentum around an issue. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re alone pushing a rock up a hill. And causes like eradicating cancer or ending child poverty are so huge that the only way to even consider tackling them is one small step at a time.

Simple Acts has leveraged the power of community by featuring several Simple Acts that encourage participants to post, share and promote their participation. For example, one Simple Act is to take a picture of yourself holding up a pro-refugee banner and upload it to their Flickr page. There are some great photos of folks from all walks of life sending a public message about refugees (granted, the 17 pictures posted suggests they didn’t do enough to promote social media engagement).

When considering baby steps ask yourself the following:

  • Who is my audience? Obviously, you wouldn’t want to throw CharityWater style Twestival if your constituents are an older demographic.
  • What do they like to do? Are they people who are likely to engage from work?  Are they singles looking for opportunities to meet others? Are they parents who are pressed for time?
  • Meet them where they are.  Instead of asking them to attend YOUR charity auction, ask them to give proceeds of THEIR rummage sale to your cause. That’s what Yard Sale for the Cure is all about.
  • Break it down. The lower the barrier to entry the more likely participation will be.
  • Make it appealing. If it’s not a good looking pin, a fun party, an activity they’ll actually enjoy participating in, they’re not likely to do it. Someone recently bought me this Tofu Doesn’t Scream T-Shirt in support of PeTA. The T-shirt was so great I had to have it. The alliance with PeTA came second.
  • Follow through. If you don’t leverage the opportunity once they’ve walked through the door, you’ve not only wasted your time, but you may actually create a negative perception of your organization. After their party CharityWater sent participants videos of wells their dollars dug.
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