Wings of Change
Easter Seals. Everybody knows what it does, right? After all, it’s been around almost 90 years, and it has an instantly recognizable brand that’s been valued at upward of $5 billion.
But rewind to 2004, when the much-loved Chicago-based organization had just wrapped up a research project it embarked on to create a public service announcement campaign.
With more than 550 affiliates around the country, Easter Seals provides lifestyle-enhancing services to children and adults with disabilities. The project’s goal was to gain a better understanding of its donors, their motivations for giving and involvement, and how they relate to the Easter Seals brand — sentiments that then were to be incorporated into the campaign’s messaging.
“Typically in the past, as probably most nonprofits do, we would sit around and decide, ‘What do we need to tell people about our organization, what do we need to tell them about our cause, what do we need to tell them about people with disabilities and the services that Easter Seals provides?’ And this time we turned the tables to say, ‘Let’s hear what they say. What are they saying about us and what are their motivations?’” says Jeanne Sowa, senior vice president of marketing and corporate relations for the organization.
“One of the first things in marketing is if you’re going to communicate with somebody, you need to hear what they have to say first, so you can communicate in ways that resonate with them,” she says.
Over 18 months, Easter Seals had worked with Chicago-based brand consultancy BrandTrust to conduct one-on-one research and Internet surveys of philanthropically minded consumers and its own donors. And the information they gathered was surprising.
The research yielded two major findings — one practical and one emotional, says Sowa, who oversees messaging and brand positioning for the organization. On the practical side, it found that while participants had a great deal of trust in the organization, they weren’t sure what it actually did.