In the continuation of rebirthing some of our agency's work, what we did with Cancer Council goes down as one of my more proudest pieces of work. Whilst we worked with them across a broad range of tactical campaigns and initiatives, the most important, and my first real detailed and in-depth immersion into brand strategy work, was that of defining and launching what was Cancer Council's first ever brand campaign.
Conventional research suggested while awareness of Cancer Council was generally healthy, vital behaviours weren’t following suit. Cancer Council’s support services weren’t being fully utilised, volunteers and community fundraisers weren’t stepping forward in sufficient numbers and Australians weren’t putting their hands in their pockets as deeply or as often as Cancer Council needed them to.
Clearly a pure awareness-building campaign was not the answer. Neither was setting out to shift attitudes or intentions likely to achieve the result Cancer Council needed. What was called for was a single-minded focus on behaviour change. Not just a single behaviour but multiple behaviours across multiple groups; from highly engaged patients, carers and clinicians to members of the general public who occasionally drop a gold coin in a collection tin.
Consistency Bias suggests we all have a strong tendency - indeed a need - to align our attitudes to their actions. When we do, we feel balance; when we don’t, we experience discomfort and cognitive dissonance. The principles of behavioural science suggest that actions change beliefs faster and more easily than beliefs change actions. As ‘Herd’ author, Mark Earls put it, ‘Don’t put your effort into persuading people to do stuff, just get them to do stuff and they’ll persuade themselves’.
If we could get Australians to do even a small action that supports Cancer Council’s mission to beat cancer – or, better still, realise that they already do something that supports our cause - they will feel they are Cancer Council supporters and be more likely to behave as such in the future. By so doing we will create a powerful psychological loop of thoughts, feelings and actions all aligned and progressively building on each other.
To amplify the effect still further, it would be valuable to invoke the power of social proof in the execution to create a visceral sense that supporting Cancer Council is not something done by just one type of person (and therefore not for me) but that Cancer Council supporters come from every age and demographic group in our community and help in ways that are as many as they are diverse.
While most cancer charities deal with either a specific patient type (eg kids with cancer) or a specific cancer (eg Melanoma Foundation), Cancer Council is Australia’s only cancer organisation that deals with every aspect of every cancer, encompassing areas including research, education, prevention and patient support. Potentially this dilutes a focused brand proposition but, by approaching the strategy with a behavioural lens, we were determined to make it a positive rather than accept it as a negative.
A deep dive into every aspect of Cancer Council led to the insight that, everyone can do something every day to help beat cancer - whether it’s suggesting someone touched by cancer calls the helpline, making a donation or getting your kids to wear a hat. Best of all, many of us are already doing at least something to help beat cancer, oblivious to the fact we’re advancing Cancer Council’s mission when we do. Once this is brought to your attention, behavioural science suggests it will make us feel we are a Cancer Council supporter and therefore more likely to be both a Cancer Council advocate and enact other supporter behaviours in the future.
Importantly, this core insight rang true not just for the everyday behaviours of the general community but also for specific stakeholders, such as cancer researchers, oncology nurses and staff – all of whom are doing something every day in their world to help beat cancer.
One of the best ways to engage any audience is to ask them a question. With this in mind, we built the Cancer Council campaign around a central theme that asked ‘What will you do today to help beat cancer?’ and showed people of all types and all ages supporting the cause in different ways.
As a federated structure, Cancer Councils in different states had different priorities and rolled out the campaign in different ways. Though this created challenges in respect of consolidated evaluation, it also created valuable interstate comparisons. South Australia used the campaign to promote its 13 11 20 phone service and in the first few weeks alone calls doubled. Initially only one state used ‘What will you today to help beat cancer?’ to promote flagship fundraiser Daffodil Day and saw an increase of 34% (states that promoted the event using the previous year’s campaign recorded falls in income of up to 21%). NSW experienced a 9% growth in unprompted awareness after previous declines and other research metrics via Millward Brown all supported the campaigns efficacy.