Tag Archives: nfp

800,000 people have read this article

Telling you that 800,000 people have read this article is a) a lie… but b) more than likely the reason you’re reading this right now.

The reason for this is an evolutionary impulse behavioural economists call “social proof” and it could well be the key to inspiring action in our supporters.

Over the past month or so there has been a lot of talk in the online not for profit community on how to cultivate action. American “nudge” enthusiast Richard Thaler proposed charitable donations will increase if they are easier to make. Philanthrocapitalism author Michael Green argued that it’s all about the fun whilst Rob Dyson promoted the virtues of gamification.

I’m not going to disagree with them (in fact I love gamification and will, when asked, talk fervently on the subject and recommend some very good books). I am, however, going to throw my hat into the ring and say this – it might be simpler than that.

Following the crowd

What if people gave (or got involved, or volunteered, etc) for the same reason you’re reading this – they thought everyone else was doing it?

Reuse your towel sign
The reuse your towel card displayed in some LA hotels

Dan McKayLet’s travel back in time and across the pond to LA in the mid-noughties where a group of three UCLA professors are trying to prove just this. The trio are swapping the “reuse your towel” signs in a local hotel’s bathrooms to ones that include the line “the majority of other guests reuse their towels.”

Unsurprisingly (given that I’m using it as an example) the results were staggeringly positive. Those with the new signs became 26% more likely to reuse their towel – proving that we’ll happily alter our behaviour to emulate the actions of our peers.

That’s social proof – the act of imitating others.

Subconscious suggestion

It’s not something you should find particularly new. Museums and street performers (whilst not the most common of bed fellows) have been aware of this for years. It’s why the former will add a little seed money at the beginning of the day and the latter’s donation boxes are made of glass. The resulting visible piles of cash show us that others are giving and subconsciously bullies us into doing the same.

Need an example that’s a little more contemporary? Let’s look toward social networks. Facebook is the very embodiment of social proof. If you take a peek at your Facebook news feed right now you’ll likely see examples of the social network nudging you to take action with posts and ads that have been liked by “John Smith and 20 other friends”.

It’s the reason so many people watched Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” video and Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. I’m not saying that there isn’t pleasure (or interest or enjoyment) to be gained from giving money to a museum or watching Miss Black “sing” but rather that often the initial prompt to take the action is that simply x number of others have done it before.

Rich potential for non-profits

As a sector many of us are already using these techniques to influence our supporters. If we look closely enough we can see examples of social proof littering the not for profit landscape.

Totalisers – for example, especially in scenarios such as Comic Relief and Children In Need – are reminders that others have performed an action – prompting millions to do the same. Similarly, Child’s i Foundation’s “Buy a Brick” and Unicef’s “Own a Colour” visualise the number of digital donations made by others – clearly identifying a group of people you’re not yet a part of.

It need not be on such a large or complex scale as that though. There are loads of free services out there (including JustGiving Pages and Facebook Events) that will automatically monitor and display the number of donors or attendees you’ve attracted (in real-time) – hopefully stimulating even more to become involved.

On an even smaller scale – social proof can inspire through something as simple as a carefully thought out line of copy.

And this leads me to my final thought: an example from my own organisation, The Blue Cross, where we recently ran a small text-to-donate campaign. After 24 hours we posted a message on our Facebook wall thanking “all of the many kind supporters who have already texted a donation.” The implication was that those who hadn’t donated were in the minority and what followed in the next 15 minutes was a flurry of donations that doubled our overall total.

Javascript countdown

So I’ve created this little countdown tool.

This will count down to a specific date and time… and then display a specific message during and then after the specified time.

The tool being used to countdown to Earth Hour on the WWF website
The tool being used to countdown to Earth Hour on the WWF website

It’s pretty lightweight (and relies on JQuery – again)

The Countdown HTML:

<span class="lineOne">This is where the countdown goes </span>
<span class="subLine">until the event</span>

The Countdown Javascript:

You’ll see on line 8 and 9 there are timestamps – these are for the beginning and the end of the event – you’ll have to figure out what the timestamps for these dates and times are.

Line 44 and 49 are the messages that will come up during and after the event.

		var 	countSpeed = 2,
			dayLength = 86400000,
			hourLength = 3600000,
			minLength = 60000,
			secondLength = 1000,
			eventStamp = 1396125000000,
			eventOverStamp = 1396128600000;
			setInterval(countUp,1000 / countSpeed);

		function countUp(){

			var 	thisNow = jQuery.now(),
				eventDiff = eventStamp - thisNow,
				daysLeft = eventDiff / dayLength,
				daysLeft = Math.floor(daysLeft),
				hoursLeft = (eventDiff - (daysLeft * dayLength)) / hourLength,
				hoursLeft = Math.floor(hoursLeft),
				minsLeft = (eventDiff - (daysLeft * dayLength) - (hoursLeft * hourLength)) / minLength,
				minsLeft = Math.floor(minsLeft),
				secsLeft = (eventDiff - (daysLeft * dayLength) - (hoursLeft * hourLength) - (minsLeft * minLength)) / secondLength,
				secsLeft = Math.floor(secsLeft);
				millisLeft = eventDiff - (daysLeft * dayLength) - (hoursLeft * hourLength) - (minsLeft * minLength) - (secsLeft * secondLength);
				if(millisLeft > 99) { 
					millisLeft = ""+millisLeft;
					millisLeft = millisLeft.substring(0, millisLeft.length - 1);
				if(secsLeft<10){ secsLeft = "0" + secsLeft; }
				if(minsLeft<10){ minsLeft = "0" + minsLeft; }
				if(hoursLeft<10){ hoursLeft = "0" + hoursLeft; }
				if(daysLeft<10){ daysLeft = "0" + daysLeft; }

			$(".lineOne").empty().append("00 days 00 hours 00 minutes 00 seconds ");

			if(thisNow > eventStamp && thisNow < eventOverStamp){ 				$(".lineOne").empty().append("Earth Hour"); 				$(".subLine").empty().append("is currently underway").css("margin-top", "180px"); 				$("#heroSpace .wwf_button").empty().append("Find out what's happening"); 			} 			else if (thisNow > eventOverStamp){
				$(".lineOne").empty().append("Earth Hour");
				$(".subLine").empty().append("has been and gone").css("margin-top", "180px");
				$("#heroSpace .wwf_button").empty().append("Find out what happened");



Obviously – please feel free to use as you wish. Let me know how you’ve found it in the comments.

Selling our integrity

The world is changing and the way it makes money is evolving.

Two quite broad and rather obvious statements I know, however in terms of marketing or (to be more specific) digital marketing or (to even more specific) third sector digital marketing there are trends that may need to be taken notice of.

What I’m referring to is advertising… or more accurately the placement of third party advertising.

This isn’t a new thing in any way. Google has been making billions for years simply through the placement of adverts on its search engine and third party sites… and those site have, obviously, been displaying ads.

A couple of other interesting developments have also occurred recently in the world of advertising:

1 – Product placement within TV programmes.

2 – Ads at the beginning of YouTube videos.

This has, in general, been accepted by the masses as a great way to increase revenue.

Want some examples? I’ve got two very recent one’s for you:

James Bond

Daniel Craig gave an interview in the Metro a few days ago talking about production team choosing to switch the international man of mystery’s drink of choice from Martinis to a certain brand of larger. His argument: the sponsorship helps pay for the film – “There’s a big furore but it’s not what the movie’s about – we haven’t sold out completely.”

Similarly movies trailers on YouTube are (ironically) often preluded with a short 15/30 second ad from someone else.

Simon Cowell

In the Evening Standard yesterday Simon Cowell spoke out about the sale of EMI. During the interview he spoke out about the need for music companies to diversify to survive citing that his own label – Syco – “[isn’t]  a music company… Ten years ago, we realised we couldn’t stay as a record company and we created a TV company. Now the TV business is creating an ancillary business. That’s what all of the music companies have got to do with their artists or they are not going to survive.”

The beauty of Cowell’s business is that it provides three functions: 1 – it helps find “talent”, 2 – it markets said “talent” and 3 – it presents opportunities to bring in marketing revenue.

So with most of the rest of the world leaping on every opportunity to bring in cash why have NFP sites been, on the whole, reluctant to include advertising on their sites, YouTube accounts and marketing materials?

I think the answer is in the title of this post – a concern for integrity. Are we selling out by associating with another company / organisation / product?

This is a valid concern – I’m not going to suggest otherwise. Most NFP organisations are very careful about their corporate relationships and have teams dedicated to managing them.

However – I’m not sure that the concern need be all that great. I think the majority of people out there realise that by providing advertising outlets on your digital portals you’re not endorsing that product (not to mention that you can have some very strict control over who advertises).

The jist of what I think I’m asking is ‘What is the value of this “integrity”?’

And this is probably quite a personal thing…

For me – well – I’m definitely not going to suggest that we start placing advertising banners all over our site at work. However I think I would feel ok allowing ads to feature at the beginning of our YouTube videos.

As always please – feel free to leave comments below (that’s what it’s there for!)


What the colour of your brand says about you (behind your back)

It was quite a few year ago now when I first heard the anecdote involving the university philosophy professor who asks his class to describe the colour yellow. The story goes that the class spent the next hour describing yellow in relation to things that are yellow (“it’s the colour of a sunflower…”, etc) until one student stood up and exclaimed “yellow is just yellow.” This, it would seem, is the correct answer as the professor congratulated and dismissed the class.

When I first heard this story I remember being slightly impressed at how simply the question and answer (or lack of it) had been raised about how to we go about describe the sensory…

…but what if I (and the professor) were wrong?

There’s more to colours than meets the eye.

As we’ve been looking at yellow up until now I agree that it would be silly of us to move away. Our professor argued that a colour just is, however why is it that colours can affect our moods in such radical ways and, in a marketing sense, the way our brands are perceived.

In 2003 a charity in the UK – The Dogs Trust – took on a major brand overhaul. The result was dramatic and it has enabled them to go from strength to strength, becoming one of the largest animal welfare charities in GB (arguably the biggest canine charity). However, I digress. One of the key elements of their new brand identity was the colour yellow; a very specifically chosen colour yellow (with it’s own Hex and RGB codes I’m sure) that reflected a lot of how the organization wanted to be perceived.

Psycological studies have shown that yellow grabs our attention and increases concentration more than any other colour. Whilst it is also known to cause people to loose their tempers (babies are more likely to cry in a yellow room), it also makes people feel more optimistic.

So what did this mean to The Dogs Trust?

The third sector is crammed with animal welfare charities in the UK – all relying on public donations to survive. By selecting a colour that grabs the attention of the general public, and then increases their concentration, The Dogs Trust were able to effectively make themselves heard amongst other, more well established competitors.

Additionally, the ‘optimistic effect’ that yellow has, could prove to be very useful when persuading members of the public that these animals could have a happy future.Furthermore, I’m sure the vibrancy and warmth this colour choice has provided the brand has helped engage a far younger audience that before – ensuring longevity.

There are two interesting side notes to this. Firstly, shortly after The Dogs Trust re-branded themselves The Cats Protection League also undertook a re-branding exercise which, funnily-enough saw them adopt the same colour yellow (or near enough) as part of their corporate identity. Secondly (and maybe more importantly) it is interesting to note that a very similar colour yellow has been used by the nations leading dog food – ‘Pedigree’ – for over 50 years, an association I’m sure was less than coincidental for The Dogs Trust.

The psychology of colours.

So, is yellow just yellow? It would seem that this is not the case – yellow is attention grabbing, aggravating and optimistic… as well as just yellow. Rather than these being emotional responses to the colours – subjective opinions of the observer – studies have proven that these reactions are true almost entirely across the board.

Another (quite well documented) case of this comes in the form of Coca Cola v Pepsi. It’s been one of the great questions of our generation – “Can you taste the difference?” The answer it would seem is both yes and, more accurately, no.

In taste-tests the world over people get it right, on average, 50% of the time… and therefore they get it wrong equally as much. The truth is we just can’t taste the difference – however much we think we can! However a similar taste-test that recently took place at an American university revealed some interesting correlations between the taste of Coca Cola (and Pepsi) and it’s branding.

Participants were attached to electrodes that monitored brain activity whilst they sampled the drinks and were exposed to different elements of the branding. When they were shown the colour red activity in the brain spiked – compared to when they were exposed to Pepsi’s blue. Additionally, when asked to guess which of the two brands they were drinking participants were more likely to choose Coca Cola when in a predominantly red environment.

This all boils down to the simple fact that Cola tastes red. Crazy, no?

Well, actually no – this is, in fact, a very common and scientifically explained trait known as synaesthesia – where taste (but more commonly sound) is experienced, in some extreme cases literally visually, as a colour. Whilst there is evidence to suggest we all have it to a certain extent (as the Coca Cola experiment shows), some famous examples of sufferers include Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix and (supposedly) more recently Lady Gaga. Gerchwin is another famous example who supposedly would ask of his orchestra to “Make it more blue!”

Skip to the end…

Whilst it may seem a little like I have gone off point slightly all this comes back around to the importance of colour for your brand. In the case of Coca Cola vs Pepsi it would appear Coca Cola will always win because the flavour of their drink and the colour of their cans taste the same. The Dogs Trust (and Cats Protection League) have seen massive growth due to the implementation of attention grabbing and optimistic yellow.

There’s obviously a lot to be said about the choice of colour (a lot more than I have written here). The main message I believe there is to be taken from all this is that it is not a decision that should be taken lightly. The colour of your brand, website, application (or pretty much anything) can dictate how it is perceived by others and subconsciously associate you with their emotional responses.

I’ll leave you with these final examples of physical reactions the body has to simply seeing a colour: yellow can increase motabilism, people lift higher weights in blue gyms and pink makes people feel tired. In short… yellow is more than just yellow!

Vodafone cover Dogs Bollox

Just a brief note to say how delighted I was to see Vodafone covering a project I have been involved with at work. We’ve tried to do something a little different and it’s finally starting to pay off with some national coverage.

I’ll be writing a blog post on this project in the coming weeks so watch this space!

In the mean time – if you want to find out more about The Dog’s Bollox project feel free to visit The Blue Cross site here.

Thank You Google

Google – the “don’t be evil” company (that everyone’s finding quite fashionable to hate at the moment) just made live our Google Grant.

A Google Grant (for those who don’t know) is a grant (suprisingly) supplied by Google (shock-horror) for charities to put out free advertising on the Google AdWords platform. Whilst our application was ok’d about 2 months ago the account was made live this week.

This represents over £73k of free advertising to the organisation… about £202 a day!

So… thank you Google! We love you… a lot!

If you are a charity in need of some free advertising you can apply for a Google Grant here.