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In marketing, as in life, choose your attitude: four videos

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Quick quiz: What is more likely to disarm people; laughter or sadness? With whom would you prefer to be friends: the funny girl or the serious girl? Anyhoo…

We were delighted to see this community service announcement (CSA) by the Australian Cancer Research Foundation back on our screens. It’s a deliberately light-hearted approach to raising donations for cancer research.

Whenever we market or communicate it’s easy to slip into a default mode; usually one that is serious, worthy … and bland. When dealing with cancer it is even easier to play things straight. This CSA is an intelligent step away into less populated territory.

nonprofit marketing advice

Cool invention. Does it come in rice?

We’ve talked before about choosing brand values. The underlying values  that this CSA gave us at Hootville: savvy, contemporary, knowledge-based, research-driven. These are great values as they set ACRF apart, carving out a position that is less competitive. There are already a plethora of medical charities vying for our heartstrings, this CSA is aiming for the right frontal lobe where the brain processes humour. 

It also defies the advice that we need to meet a person and hear a story. Frankly the machine in the closing shot plays the role of hero very well. Go machine! Faster, faster! That machine gave us hope and hope is vital if you want people to take action.

Kudos to the ACRF board for realising that a humourous approach may be the way to people’s wallets – and thus new treatments. Corporate know this very well.

sydney emcee Brett de Hoedt

Did you know that Brett played the organ?

Hepatitis Australia has recently launched this CSA starring mascot O’Liver. Again, they have taken a light-hearted approach to liver disease which is not exactly a laugh-o-matic issue.

Flashmobs have their critics but O’Liver’s smile cannot be denied. Brett (left in dark suit) met O’Liver (right in red Spandex) at a World Hepatitis day event he emceed last year in Sydney. Brett reports that “The O” is a charming organ. “Larger than life,” was how Brett described him. Indeed.

Finally witness these two differing examples from two US police departments on the recruitment bandwagon. Chalk and cheese and hilarious.

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Nonprofit TV advertising: too clever?

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This CSA for Leukaemia Foundation’s Shave for a Cure featured during the Australian Open Tennis coverage. It’s slickly produced, humourous and clever but is it too clever for its own good? We’re not sure.

A lot happens in 30 seconds. There are a lot of words and ideas in this script.  Does the movie trailer satire get in the way of explaining and encouraging the concept? We fear so.

Mind you; the Chins (as we’ll call them) have featured for a while now and helped raise tens of millions so perhaps we should leave well enough alone.

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Marketing bridges to cross

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Having recently talked marketing with over 200 nonprofit and community groups in 24 hours (no, not one at a time silly) we have some thoughts on the many marketing bridges nonprofits must cross if they are to get results.

marketing advice for nonprofits

Keep walkin'

Bridge #1: marketing at all. Most nonprofits don’t have marketing in their DNA. They are service providers with little shortage of demand – hardly the sort of organisation that lives or dies on its ability to win hearts, minds and wallets. Some organisations see marketing as extra-curricular, unnecessary, even tawdry. Such organisations are less likely to survive than those with a healthy attitude to marketing. The nonprofits that market themselves best see themselves as campaigners, advocates and spokespeople. Why bother marketing? Well would you like more and better donors, volunteers, staff, access to policymakers?

Bridge #2: changing the status quo. No change equals no improvement. You have to assess what you are currently doing and make some changes. Do you really need four quarterly printed newsletters? Why not go down to two printed editions and introduce an eNewsletter? What do you mean you don’t offer your expert opinion to media? Why not expose yourself to hundreds of thousands of potential staff, volunteers and donors? Why couldn’t you offer your clients as public speakers in suitable forums? Many changes to make.

free advice on marketing

Yes, this is a real bridge. Cross it.

Bridge #3: fear of over-exposure. Some nonprofits – usually the low-profile ones – worry that aggressive marketing will see them wear out their welcome with their audiences. That should be their problem! Who cares if some people tire of your eNewsletter and unsubscribe? These people don’t care about you anyway. Who cares if your peer organisations feel that you get too much media spotlight? That’s their problem – you will score the benefits that come with media profile.

Do you think corporate organisations give a damn about overexposure? Every two-bit bank, mobile phone company, vitamin maker, dishwashing liquid spruiker and real estate hawker pummels us day and night with TV advertising, direct mail, street signs, events and more. Do they suffer from this? Aparently not. They spend huge money to bombard us with little fear of over-exposure. The thought that nonprofits will suffer a backlash over our paltry marketing efforts is laughable.

marketing tips and advice

March across Britain's most recently completed piece of infrastructure.

Bridge#4: identifying, segmenting and understanding your audiences. How many key audiences do you have? What can you tell us about them? What can you tell us about what they think of you and your issues? How do you appeal to each of them specifically? What marketing option is best for each of them? Marketing is all about audiences, so get to know yours. Then pursue them ruthlessly.

Bridge #5: spending some money. Many marketing options need just time and forethought but yes, some need moolah. Some expenditure will gain you profile, closer relationships and a better image. Some might even make the financial investment back. There’s no better example of this than starting an eNewsletter. A better graphic designer may be worth the spend. Likewise a pro copywriter. Likewise some stock photos. The best money you can spend is on a smart, savvy, hungry and humble marketer.

nonprofit publicity advice

Walkabout over this to the other side.

Bridge #6: hiring someone appropriate. Do you hire accountants to do your accounting? Builders to build your buildings? Do you see where we are headed with this? You need to hire the best professional marketer your money can buy. This person will have experience in marketing causes, courses, ideas, events and the like via a range of marketing options – media, publications and online communications. As long as you have some inappropriate person part-timing, job-sharing and corner-cutting you will get commensurate results.

Bridge #7: going wholeheartedly online. Your website probably treats visitors with disdain. A new, better website will be the cornerstone of a more marketing-orientated you. Likewise, social media and eNewsletters which all offer fast, free marketing options.

Bridge #8: being interesting. How far will you go to gain attention? A witty headline, an eye-catching image? You’ll need all that and much more to gain people’s time in a crowded marketplace. Will you make strong statements, bold claims and make them loudly? You should. Note – being informative and well-written is not being interesting.


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nonprofit copy and slogans – is yours boring?

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Citizens of Hootville will know that we detest the boring and the bland. We despise copy that fails to acknowledge that your audiences have other (though not better) things to do with their time. 


copywriting advice

Would you donate to Nicole? Brrrr.

We regularly witness boring and bland headlines, eNewsletter subject boxes, merchandise copy and organisational slogans. This leaves us cold – Nicole Kidman cold.

Good copy is infused with the spirit of your organisation – and it ought to be a spirit worthy of attention: one that inspires, empathises and distinguishes.

At the heart of most nonprofit communications is a desire to gain support of readers – membership, donations, assistance to lobby, volunteer and the like.

We don’t know about you but we are rarely inspired to help some bland organisation, which may be why we don’t go out and volunteer for a bank.

Volunteer? Hell; we fail to switch banks or even use the extra services of the bank we do use*; despite the billions spent on advertising. Why? Because they rarely reach us on an emotional level. Emotions are key to inspiring action so aim for them. 

You need to write copy that makes punters feel something. Put into words the feeling might be: “They know how I feel. They get it. These people are onto something. These are people I want to help. These are people who can help me.”

Yeah; stop freeloading you non-members.

Professional sports teams understand this. They live and die on membership and thus invest hugely on recruitment and retention. The vibe is jocular, exciting, militaristic, missionary. Everything is infused with: “We’re in this together. Get with the strength. There’s strength in numbers. Let’s be a part of something together. Non-members aren’t part of the family.”

It’s not quite: “You are with us or you are a big fat loser,” but close.

Wow - that's a lot of bogans.

It’s hard to argue with a nonprofit membership marketing campaign that gains 70,000+ people willing to fork out hundreds a year. In no small part members join to feel a part of something bigger. The marketing understands this. Everything is aimed at sparking an emotional response leading to an action. 

So are ‘real’ nonprofits aiming at our hearts and minds? Two positive examples come to mind.

nonprofit marketing

Don't you want to stick it to the bad guys? We do too. Go Amnesty.

We think this Amnesty t-shirt is a fine example of a nonprofit presenting itself less like a worthy issue and more like a team worthy of support. It displays humour, pride and plays on dozens of corporate slogans that use the same structure: [Company name] [doing something] since [enter year]. Eg: Hootville Communications. Grumpily self-promoting since 1999. Amnesty is aiming at our sense of justice. Bravo.

nonprofit marketing advice
The people reading this are just the sort of people who believe in standing up. Good copy.

“Yeah – we need to fight the bad guys. Thank God someone is. Go Amnesty.”  

We also like Environment Defenders Office Victoria’s slogan. They are a band of lawyers aiming at better environmental outcomes by fighting for law reform and occasionally taking bad guys to court. No one else does this. The slogan? EDO Victoria: The Environment’s Legal Team.


We like it – again it’s confident, battle ready, explains EDO’s point of difference and plays on a phrase we know, ‘legal team’.

“Yeah –  at least some of the smart lawyers are on the environment’s side. I’m sick of the big guys hiring the best lawyers and screwing the environment. Go EDO!” 

Good slogans and good copy all display chutzpah. (Look it up Christians.)  

If you’ve read this far you should read this.

*Hootville uses Coutts and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

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Emcee Brett de Hoedt again judged short of perfection

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emceeing Australian INstitute of Company Directors


Having recently attained a score of 4.85 out of 5 for his conference emceeing in Brisbane, Brett de Hoedt was granted 4.44 out of 5 by the tribal chiefs (otherwise known as nonprofit directors) at a recent Australian Institute of Company Directors event in Melbourne. 

“I guess that’s a downward trend,” observed the media trainer and emcee who used the term “bollocks” twice in his AICD presentation about nonprofit marketing but declined to utilise PowerPoint.  

“Still; at least I have something to aim for,” he said. “I’m refusing all non-carbohydrates until I can find the extra .56 that separates me from perfection.”

The link between carbohydrates and public speaking remains unclear.

Jennifer Bate from the AICD ignored Brett’s request for pasta but added; “We have had some fantastic feedback. I hope you feel the effort was worthwhile; it certainly has been from the audience and the institute’s perspective.”



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