It’s the season of St. Patrick’s Day in the United States and the Muscular Dystrophy Association is selling their paper Shamrocks in stores and other retail locations. I saw them advertised as a top banner ad on the website of my local newspaper.
I clicked on the ad and it took me to a secure page on the MDA website. It took forever to download, but in time a video appeared featuring a short performance from by singer Ace Young from their telethon.
Young, a former American Idol finalist, then made a call to action to support the MDA by buying an electronic version of their Shamrock in $5 or $10 amounts, or more.
Some of the traffic comes from Young’s Myspace page and he addresses those fans directly in the script. MDA also has a Myspace page and counts Young as a friend.
Like all icon campaigns this is “fortune at the bottom of the pyramid” type fundraising, but for MDA an 'e-Shamrock' is vastly superior to the paper version:
- A nearly infinite variety of versions of the electronic icons is possible.
- MDA acquires a database of donors.
- Once all the electronic backend is in place, your costs are limited to the fees charged to process credit cards and Paypal donations. By contrast a typical paper icon campaign has more variable than fixed costs.
- Likewise, MDA has fewer personnel costs with an e-Shamrock than with the paper version; it’s cheaper and easier to move electrons than atoms.
- There’s all the advantages of tracking made possible by the Internet that tells them great deal about who donates, where, how, at what time, where they came from, etc.
- Electronic icons don’t clog landfills after the campaign is over (although even electrons pollute in that they require electricity to power the servers).
- It’s very easy for the campaign to go viral, and MDA enables that to a certain degree by including HTML code for various versions of the e-Shamrock.
- With a paper icon, there will likely be a direct ask from a cashier. Young fills that role in this campaign. But saying no to a persistent cashier is harder than not clicking on a link. And what about the people that don’t know or like Ace Young?
- People get to sign their name on paper Shamrocks and have them display them for all to see, or even take them home. There’s nothing similar in this campaign.
- It seems small, but when there’s hundreds of paper icons hanging up in a store it creates subtle social pressure to donate. This campaign doesn’t duplicate that aspect either.
- First of all, it needs some kind of ‘tell a friend option’ whereby when you buy a Shamrock, it gives you the option of alerting your friends to your generosity. Handled right the creative might work to ‘shame’ friends and family into matching your gift.
- The other idea is harder to execute but potentially much more valuable to would-be donors. MDA ought to give as premium to Shamrock buyers an unreleased track from Ace Young’s upcoming album.
Combined with the ‘tell a friend’ option, MDA’s Shamrock campaign would stand out in a way none of its competitors ever have. And given its 42-year telethon archive and thousands of celebrity appearances, it has celebrity access and an inventory of performances no charity could match.