There’s no denying that there are few things more influential than Hollywood. From blockbuster movies to TV shows to the latest in celebrity fashion, these things inform popular culture, and leave an emotional impact on us. So, imagine the vast possibilities of harnessing the power of the entertainment industry to generate awareness of important social and environmental issues and make a difference. The American Red Cross recognizes the tremendous opportunity to seize a mainstream audience through entertainment, and in partnership with the CW’s promotions for their new series, ‘The Vampire Diaries,’ they are launching a full scale blood drive. The campaign’s tagline is ‘Starve a Vampire. Donate Blood.’ and will “take place on more than 230 high school and college campuses around the country,” according to Stephanie Millian, director for biomedical communications at the Red Cross in Washington.
In support of the effort, posters featuring the show’s principal stars — Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder — will be plastered throughout participating cities, tapping into the Vampire buzz and anticipation of the Fall series, premiering on September 10th. The Red Cross is also working with the CW “to produce a public service announcement that will feature members of the cast,” continued Millian, and they will use the popular Channel One network to promote the blood drive on high school TVs around the country.
This is a smart marketing push for the American Red Cross because, not only does it get their message in front of a younger demographic in a compelling way, it also helps to maximize the lifetime value of the cause by attracting — and cultivating — donors at an early age. The 16-22 age group only represents 25% of donors currently, so this is an excellent way to grow that market significantly. It also uses a memorable hook to get teens to think about an issue they likely would not have considered, and while the Red Cross has their captive attention, they can communicate the importance of blood donation.
Believe it or not, this is not the first vampire-inspired promotion the Red Cross has participated in. They have been promoting blood donation through Vampire Con as well, and several of their chapters have created viral vampire videos like the one below, available on YouTube:
While blood donation is a serious issue, it’s good to see organizations like the Red Cross using humor and pop trends to get their message in front of a broad audience that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to reach. Let’s face it, we live in an entertainment-driven culture, so rather than take consumers out of that mode to push messages that they will just tune out, why not join them in thecontext of experiences they connect with and become a meaningful part of that connection?
I hope to see more of this type of social marketing, and as mental bandwidth continues to wane in an increasingly content saturated space, it will become even more critical for nonprofits to push the limits of creativity to make their voice heard above the noise. And if it takes a fascination with the living dead to save a life, I’m all for it.