Can This Headline Save Cause Marketing?

Because of the voluminous Alden Keene Cause Marketing Database I see hundreds of cause marketing campaigns a month, and one of the trends in writing headlines for cause marketing ads is to use a question.

Here’s two from the database for illustrative purposes, but I’ve seen similar headlines for the RED campaign and in dozens of other campaigns.

For more than a year you almost couldn’t avoid this ad from Ford Warriors in Pink, which benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The ad spent more time in more women’s magazines than did pictures of Angelina Jolie. It reads: “Will a T-Shirt Help Cure Breast Cancer”?

The second example comes from Glad’s campaign for Cookies for Kids Cancer. It reads: “Can Lives be Changed With a Bake Sale”?

Now normally, I’d say a question is a poor way to write a headline. A question makes it too simple for the reader to check out. It’s too easy to read “will a T-shirt help cure breast cancer?” and answer it with a ‘no’ and move on.

But could there be method to all these questions?

I think there is.

Both campaigns threaten to trivialize cancer and the people who fight it. Of course cookies don’t cure cancer. This is what thinkbeforeyoupink has been railing against for years.

But add a question to the idea and the dynamic changes a little. Can a T-shirt help cure cancer? Not really. But if all of us rally against the scourge of cancer with bake sales, and races, and merchandise sales, we can make headway against it.

And in fact, we have. When my dad died of cancer in 1974, we scarcely said the word cancer in polite company. When John Wayne died of cancer in 1979 you couldn’t have filled the Rose Bowl with the number of cancer survivors in any given year. Nowadays there’s something like 10 million cancer survivors in the United States, including my mother-in-law. Forms of cancer that were once death sentences like leukemia are very treatable today. Cancer hasn’t submitted to human ingenuity, but it has been humbled by it.

Can we cure cancer? That remains to be seen. But can we raise awareness? Can you and I help with the funding of cancer research by buying trifling things like T-shirts and cookies?

What do you think?

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