Skip to main content

March of Dimes and Colored Charity Ribbons

Enough With the Ribbons Already

How powerful is the ribbon as a visual awareness symbol? Can causes and nonprofits continue to adopt existing colored ribbons and yet still have meaning invested in all the rest? What’s the potential for confusion when two or more different charities/causes claim the same color of ribbon? When another cause adopts a colored ribbon already in use, does it undermine meaning or expand it? Could another iconic image beside a ribbon come to mean as much? Isn’t there a ‘me-to’ aspect to ribbons nowadays? Could ribbons be overused to the point where there’s a ribbon backlash?

These and other questions came flooding to me when I saw this ‘thank you to our sponsors’ ad in the April 30 issue of Fortune Magazine from WalkAmerica, the fundraiser for the March of Dimes.

In the bottom right corner is a blue and pink ribbon (get it?). Frankly it came as a surprise to me that March of Dimes… which works to prevent birth defects… had a ribbon and that they choose to feature it so prominently.

If the entry under Pink Ribbon in Wikipedia is to be believed then ribbons in America came in vogue in later years of World War I when a marching cadence sung by the doughboys had the line “around her hair she wore a yellow ribbon.” Another Wikipedia entry said that the yellow ribbons were worn by wives and girlfriends of American Cavalrymen in the 19th century. Another says the practice was brought to America from Europe by Puritans during Colonial times. During WWII songs were written about yellow ribbons and soldiers coming home.

But the biggest hit using the yellow ribbon theme came from Tony Orlando and Dawn in the 1970s with their song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree,” which was about a prisoner returning home to his sweetheart. Later, American embassy officials held hostage in Iran found yellow ribbons waiting for them on their return in 1981. In short for perhaps 300 years, the yellow ribbon meant a homecoming.

Then in the early 1990s AIDS activists began to employ red ribbons not as a symbol of homecoming but to bring awareness to the fight against that dread disease. Very soon thereafter activists against breast cancer began to employ pink ribbons as a symbol of the fight against that dread disease.

In Canada and increasingly worldwide the white ribbon signifies opposition to violence against women. It is also used by the Quebec peace movement to signal their disapproval of the war in Iraq.

Blue ribbons mean remembrance of police officers killed in action in Victoria, Australia. In Spain the blue ribbon is worn by those who oppose the terrorism of ETA. In Ukraine blue ribbons are worn in protest of the seizure of power during the “Orange Revolution.”

And on it goes. Every color of ribbon you could name means something to a nonprofit or a cause somewhere.

Or does it?

Is it really possible for a purple ribbon to be truly meaningful for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation when it already stands for awareness of pancreatic cancer, as a protest against horse slaughter, as a sign of Pagan solidarity, or in memory of slain Beatle John Lennon?

I can see both sides of the argument. The wearing of ribbons has perhaps 20 generations of meaning woven into it, and maybe more. And the colors, like the March of Dimes pink and blue ribbon, all have some specific connotation. Why kick against the pricks?

Here’s a suggested rule of thumb if your cause or nonprofit is thinking about utilizing a colored ribbon: If you’re one of the first five to adopt the color, well bully for you and your cause. Run hard with it.

But if you’re the last ribbon to the party… say, number six or beyond… then it’s time to head back to the drawing board and develop some other iconic image and color that can denote the unique passion, mission and thrust of your nonprofit.

Because, let’s be honest, most of the colored ribbons are pretty well tied up.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Alden Keene Cause Marketing Stock Index Dramatically Outperforms Other Indices

There are stock indexes galore; the Dow, S&P 500, the NASDAQ Composite, the Wilshire 5000, the FTSE, and hundreds more. But how would an index of the stocks of companies that do a meaningful amount of cause marketing perform compared to those well-known indexes? Pretty well, as it turns out.

I first floated the idea of a stock index that would track companies that do cause marketing back in 2009. I tried to figure out Yahoo Pipes so that I could put the feed right into this blog. But alas sometimes the geek gene does fall pretty far from the tree.

So I talked to programmers to see if I could find someone who could do the same, but it was always more than I was willing to pay.

Finally, last week I hired a MBA student to do it all in a spreadsheet, and what do you know but that over the last 15 years a basket of 25 cause marketing stocks dramatically outperforms the Dow, the S&P 500, the NASDAQ Composite, and the Wilshire 5000.

The index, which I call the Alden Keene Cause Market…

Top Eight Cause-Related Marketing Campaigns of 2007

Yeah, You Read it Right. It's a Top 8 List.

More cause-related marketing campaigns are unveiled every day across the world than I review in a year at the cause-related marketing blog. And, frankly, I don’t see very many campaigns from outside North America. So I won’t pretend that my annual list of the top cause-related marketing campaigns is exhaustive.

But, like any other self-respecting blogger, I won’t let my superficial purview stop me from drawing my own tortured conclusions!

So… cue the drumroll (and the dismissive snickers)… without further ado, here is my list of the eight best cause-related marketing campaigns of 2007.

My list of the worst cause-related marketing campaigns of 2007 follows on Thursday.


Chilis and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
I was delighted by the scope of Chilis’ campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As you walked in you saw the servers adorned in black co-branded shirts. Other elements included message points on the Chilis beverage coas…

Cell Phone Fundraising

There you are walking down Lake Shore Drive past the rising Chicago Spire building eating a Chicago Red Hot, when you’re struck by a billboard with a message from, say, MercyCorps, asking for help providing relief to the cyclone-battered people in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy delta. But the sign doesn’t feature a website URL, a toll-free telephone number or even an address to send a check. Instead the sign tells you to text the word ‘Give’ to a number using your cell phone and a $5 donation will be made.

To the Japanese or Europeans that scenario probably sounds not so much futuristic as so 2006.

But it’s new in the United States, made possible by lower fees from the cell phone carriers. If analysts are correct, cell phone fundraising may be a prominent future fundraising channel for charities with a clear mission, strong brand recognition and the ability to effectively get their message to their audience.

What’s the potential upside of this mobile phone fundraising in the United States?

“$100 mil…