We’re always on the watch for excellent communications programs. One of the best we've seen in a long time is the cause marketing and issue-education campaign in support of Autism Awareness Month (AAM), which kicked off with a commemorative day on April 2 and built momentum through the month.
Smart, informative and poignant, the well-coordinated initiative crystallizes focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder, which impacts one in every 110 children, including one in every 70 boys—statistics, in fact, we learned from the awareness-building effort. The effort was multi-dimensional; tactics spanned events, media outreach and promotional materials on national and local levels. What's most impressive, though, was the level of seamless synchronization and execution across the numerous autism-support organizations—from the venerable Autism Society and cutting-edge Autism Speaks to a host of local groups. No small feat in any context, but all the more impressive coming from lean and resource-strapped nonprofits. Activities in support of AAM covered the cause-marketing landscape. There were grass-root components: tried-and-true walks in markets across the country to raise funds for Autism Speaks (with the Los Angeles event alone, for example, generating $1.4 million in contributions). Media outreach by celebrities personally impacted by the disorder was moving, notably the actor Edward Asner appearing with his autistic grandson on the Headline News show "Dr. Drew." Public-service announcements were near-continuous.
Eye-popping special events—including bathing New York's Rockefeller Center at night in autism-blue light—drew attention from the otherwise uninitiated. Within a single 12-hour period last week, we saw national and local news segments featuring expert spokespeople, live remote broadcasts from the walks, not to mention street banners and other out-of-home advertising. The jigsaw-puzzle-piece autism logo—also adapted into the iconic ribbon shape used by various social and health causes—seemed to be everywhere. In just its fourth year of existence, AAM is gaining traction and on a trajectory for greater future success. Interestingly, while media partners are prevalent, there is a seeming absence of corporate sponsors and supporters. This may be intentional, but possibly not. If so, it would represent an opportunity for cause-related marketers to align with an issue that everyday is moving closer to the forefront of public consciousness.
The impact of autism is vast; it touches parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers, friends and colleagues—all of us know someone impacted. We no longer think of brands such as Revlon and Avon without immediately connecting them to longstanding support for breast cancer research and cure. Similarly, for the earnest enterprise, an association supporting autism treatment offers similar payoff. With feet in the corporate social responsibility and reputation management worlds, FolFry can think of corporations, from the Fortune 100 on down, for which the payoff could be considerable. Let us know if there are socially responsible companies you can think of, too.