November 1, 2014

Diagnosing weak marketing: a good cause for heart failure

£1 Challenge for the British Heart Foundation

The £1 Challenge was a noble idea: get one million people to donate just £1 in the space of four months to raise £1m for the British Heart Foundation. In the end, however, the attempt was dubbed by its organiser, Steve Trister, as a “catastrophic failure”, raising just £2,329 and receiving very little media coverage.

Raising over £2k for charity is not to be sniffed at, but it is a long way from the £1m target, and in the video from Steve that draws a curtain over the challenge, he is visibly disappointed.

From my perspective as a marketer, here are the main five reasons I think the campaign failed to launch:

1. Uninspiring challenge

The idea of raising £1m is interesting but, frankly, a bike ride is not. The tie in between healthy exercise and healthy hearts is a no brainer, but there was no stunt to inspire the hearts and minds of the national press and social media trend setters. A campaign like this needs to be visual and exciting from the outset – the £1m target was not an exciting enough concept by itself.

2. Local cause

Steve suggests that perhaps a cancer charity would have fared better, but I think it was the locality that was the problem. An international charity would have encouraged international donations, and thus broadened the reach of the campaign. That said, if the UK media and online community had got behind it, I believe it could still have succeeded with a UK cause.

3. Lack of celebrity

Steve Trister seems like a great guy with some great ideas, but he’s not a known face. Journalists are looking for a hook that will interest the masses, and a famous face early on could have helped the cause. Some celebrity endorsement was secured, but it was low key, and too late.

4. Over-reliance on social media

There were lots of earnest social media users helping to promote the cause in the beginning, but without the PR to support it, this ran out of steam. Some press coverage would have ignited and reignited public interest and helped drive the campaign on.

5. Lack of planning

Steve acknowledges himself that the campaign could have been a success with more planning. The problem is, when everyone is donating their services for free, there is only so many hours they can realistically offer. Strong media relations was needed in the months before campaign went public to get nationals to back the cause and help launch it with a bang.

Steve has promised to come back with another challenge in six months, and I wish him luck – I just hope he spends the next six months taking his own advice and planning carefully to make the next challenge a full-blooded success.