Marketers love the notion that a great idea can be carefully crafted and nurtured by one man or woman. Think of Milton Glaser's iconic images, the fictional talent of Don Draper, or the all-too-real attention to detail embodied by Steve Jobs. Agency truly lies with the agency — or so marketers would like to think — whether that be an ad agency, PR firm, or graphic team.
But right now, I'm working on a marketing campaign that knows no master, a ship without a captain. And it's exhilarating. Its logo will never win any design awards, and there are no brand guidelines, but somehow this idea has grown to over 1,000 volunteer partners in every state. It's called #GivingTuesday.
Taking place on November 27, 2012, #GivingTuesday's goal is to show that the holiday shopping season can also be about giving back. From large retailers like JC Penney to small businesses and local charities, organizations across all 50 states are committing to take special action on November 27 .
I love #GivingTuesday because it's wonderfully self-reliant.
No single person or group owns this effort. There's a team behind the project, working hard to make #GivingTuesday a success. 92Y in New York and The United Nations Foundation birthed the idea and have worked hard to shape its success. Both organizations have worked on uniting communities to harness social media for social good, and #GivingTuesday was a logical framework to bring Americans together for this purpose. Mashable brought in crucial feedback based on their work with what they call "the connected generation." These leaders in turn cajoled, (pro bono) many sector experts, from PR to social media. We've nurtured #GivingTuesday and given it a platform, creating opportunities for user feedback, social media engagement, and word of mouth.
How do you give birth to a project with no master that is still strong enough to retain its shape and initial purpose? It seems to me there are three components:
1. Building the right framework: #GivingTuesday isn't a campaign; it's an idea. We wanted to simply create an organizing principle to encourage the creativity and energy of Americans to work together for a greater good. We wanted to launch a story that would engage people of every background and allow them to run with it in their own way, according to their own passions and abilities.
For instance, several big companies have pledged large, complicated efforts of the kind only a large company could organize. Microsoft will launch a major donor matching campaign on GiveforYouth.org — a new micro-giving portal designed to allow donors to fund and follow the dreams of young people around the world. Simon Property Group will be collecting donations at Simon malls nationwide to support the Simon Youth Foundation (SYF) and American Red Cross. eBay/PayPal will waive fees for non-profit donations.
Smaller nonprofits are making smaller, but very concrete, commitments. For every donation made on #GivingTuesday, Plant A Fish will plant a mangrove; for every fifth donation the organization will release a baby sea turtle. Phoenix House, a nonprofit organization that provides alcohol and drug abuse treatment, is asking people to write letters of support to the men and women in its treatment programs.
But part of our goal with #GivingTuesday was that the framework be flexible enough for individuals to be part of it — not just through their organizations. My colleague Chrysula Winegar is determined to set aside time on #GivingTuesday for holiday shopping — by buying family members charitable donations for Christmas in place of physical items they don't necessarily need. Ilina Ewen is incorporating the "new tradition" of #givingtuesday into continuing to teach her two young sons about why giving back is essential part of life.
2. Talking to the right audience: Henry Timms, who initially envisioned #GivingTuesday a year ago, introduced me to the concept of the "connected generation" and of course it immediately gelled. The success of a project like #GivingTuesday relies on strong interconnected networks of digital influencers. Unlike traditional marketing segments, the connected generation audience can't be broken down by age, demographics, interest, or hobby. What they have in common is their reliance on the web as the best possible source of information, innovation, and contacts.
We knew that the social influencers who would spread the idea of #GivingTuesday lead strong interconnected networks online. Theses audiences include individuals of every background and who care about a multitude of issues. What they have in common is their reliance on the web as the best possible source of information, innovation, and connectivity. We knew that if one influencer in a network learned about #GivingTuesday and was inspired to act, he or she would work to organize friends and followers as well.
3. Creating a strong mission: The best marketing campaigns call on something visceral in people; they respond to what we desire. Sure, sex sells in marketing, but there are other powerful ways to engage people. As Beth Kanter writes, "Empathy is an excellent marketing strategy tool."
Each year, we hear about people getting trampled in Wal-Mart or fighting over drastically reduced electronics on Black Friday. It should be no surprise that #GivingTuesday speaks to many Americans' desire to escape the scrum of Black Friday, the relentless marketing of post-Thanksgiving shopping. We believe Americans have a desire to put giving back into the giving season. And so with #GivingTuesday, we give people the nugget of inspiration, and let them get on with their work.
Members of the #GivingTuesday team were on an organizing call for our social media ambassadors when one woman came on to tell us about her baby, "Fair Trade Tuesday." The marketer in me immediately wanted to shut her down: that's off brand — she invented a new name! But then I remembered, #GivingTuesday is hers to adapt, and that's where the beauty in this project lies.
Perhaps we need to focus less on controlling every aspect of a brand or campaign or more on providing a framework where ideas can grow organically. I will try to remember the principles of the self-reliant campaign in my next project, and the empowerment people feel when we give them the opportunity to act. As marketers, the most important thing we do is create an idea or feeling strong enough to take on a life of its own.Go to Source