The trouble with the FACTS
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“There’s enough Math in Finance Already. What’s Missing is Imagination.” This is the title of an article I read on iPad’s Flipboard this week which grabbed my attention and emphasized what I’ve been thinking about lately in relation to bringing facts to life. If there ever was an industry where you wanted facts to be at the forefront, it would finance. And yet Jason Gots, of BIG THINK, suggests that business strategy is largely about translating facts into something more strategic. Facts can be pretty much useless, otherwise.
This same principle applies to cause marketing. As I observe many charity and cause campaigns, I am disappointed by how un-engaging many of them are. Parading out a list of facts about a specific cause, is unlikely to break through the consciousness of consumers bombarded by thousands of such campaigns. That’s just boring!
Don’t get me wrong, facts are important. It’s just that facts, even shocking ones, often don’t move people into action, oddly enough. Dan Ariely, a researcher in behavioral economics presents this point very well in his book, “The Upside of Irrationality,” in which he argues that perfectly rational approaches fail to break through because they don’t trigger the irrational side of human emotions.
Let’s apply this technical jargon to something practical for you as you create your cause marketing campaign. It’s simpler than you might think. Here’s my advice:
Tell human stories – supported by facts (the truth) behind the story
A story I saw a few weeks ago on CBC’s The National brought tears to my eyes and moved me to write this article.
His name is Earl. His life’s story touched hundreds, including the most macho hockey players to loving mothers of children with cancer. Earl was diagnosed with cancer in his teens, just one of about 850 Canadian children diagnosed with various forms of cancer each year, leading to eventual death for about 135 of them.
Cancer was just one of several health conditions Earl had but it is ultimately what took his life. He was born prematurely with fetal alcohol syndrome, had Tourettes syndrome and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.) Earl could have been diagnosed with any form cancer, but in his case it was a bone cancer that resulted in a leg amputation. Talk about adversity!
Earl’s spirit was astounding, represented by his motto to “battle hard”. He lived a battle every day of his life. When Earl walked into any room and began talking (and even joking) to everyone from corporate executives to stay at home moms, he had their undivided attention. While he fought so fought hard, sadly he died in September and his funeral had to be held in Winnipeg’s MTS hockey arena in order to accommodate the thousands who wanted to grieve his passing.
Take the “story of Earl” out of what I just presented and all you would have are following facts about children with cancer:
- Cancer is diagnosed in about 850 Canadian children each year.
- The rate of death from childhood cancer is about 135 deaths each year.
- Approximately one survivor of childhood cancer is at substantial risk for other health problems, including late sequelae of cancer treatment and chronic psychological and cognitive impairments.
These facts, although important, are simply not as moving as hearing Earl’s story. Isn’t this true?
Next time you are creating a campaign to create awareness about important facts relating to your cause, I encourage you to tell the story about the real people who are touched by your cause, rather than offering up a “faceless” struggle to raise money and create awareness. Remember, there are more than 85,000 charities in Canada, each with their own worthy mission, each trying to break through an unbelievable maze of competition for dollars. You’re just one of them. Engage your audience more in your cause by telling the important and emotive stories, as well as the truth behind them.