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    April 26, 2009

    Want to get younger donors? Give them themselves.

    A note to my readers: you may have noticed that blog posts are less frequent lately. That's because I have taken to sharing interesting news and thoughts on Twitter. But, I am still planning to post on this blog when something just can't fit into 140 characters.  You can follow my Twitter updates on this blog and also let me know which, if any, of the things I Tweet about you'd like to see more in depth blogging about.

    Recently, I came across an article talking about Ford's new Social Media campaign for it's for Fiesta. The bottom line for Ford is trying to bring this very successful European brand, popular with European urbanites, to the U.S. 

    So what did Ford do? It had a contest where bloggers from all over the U.S. blogosphere could submit their credentials for why they should be allowed to test drive the Fiesta. All Fords asks is that those chosen share their honest opinion with their readers and on the Fiesta's Agent's site. Reeking of James Bond, the Agents also will have Missions to complete that the audience can read all about.

    A smart move by Ford? This has certainly generated a lot of buzz and 100 people somewhere in the U.S. are getting free use of a car for 6 months, but what caught my attention here is that Ford's campaign is one in what I believe is a trend that has been around for a while in the commercial world-- creating a sense of "you be the judge" when targeting younger consumers. So, instead of having some actor in a commercial tell us all about the wonderful gadgets on the new car, Ford is challenging 100 people my age to tell me all about it, and, if they don't like something, to tell me about it as well. 

    With Gen Y's sensitivity to being "sold to" it would only make sense that marketers would eventually catch on to a form of selling without selling-company-sponsored peer reviews of products.

    Another example of this is Microsoft, which appears to have finally developed a campaign that grabs some attention away from Apple.  "Regular" people just like me are given $1500 and told to buy whatever laptop they like that meets their needs, and whatever they don't spend, they get to keep the difference.  Most of the ads show the regular people just like me going for a PC and pocketing some change.  These ads have been pretty popular and are widely lauded as successful?

    What I find so interesting about this is the similarities in the two campaigns.  This is not suprising-once someone figures out how to grab a target group's attention, almost everyone interested in that target group inevitably follows, rendering the "new" technique not so new.

    Those of us in DM are pretty familiar with this--someone develops a package that works--say adding multiple stamps onto the RE. Results shoot thru the roof. Word spreads thru the industry and before you know it, everyone is using multi stamp REs, and while results improve, they don't generate the ginormous lifts they did for the first person who thought of it.

    Brands have been jumping on the 'real' consumer bandwagon left and right. Just yesterday, I saw a Nesquik ad (remember the bunny), where I could watch videos of people professing their love for Nesquik, including a person talking in French to a vending machine.

    So the trend seems to be we consumers want to see ourselves enjoying the various products we are being sold, evaluating them, discussing them. No ad man is going to tell us what to think.

    How will this translate into the fundraising world? Well for one, this may mean the phrase many of us cringe at--directed giving. Yes, yes, we know better than our donors how and where the money we need should be spent, and the pain of tracking directed giving, but donors want a say in where the cash goes and they increasingly want it tracked.

    This may also mean a change in who is speaking to our donors. Traditionally, DM letters are signed by a senior level person-a VP, founding president, director of fundraising.  Should emails increasingly come from field staff sharing their experiences? Should we "edit" them as much as we do for fear of saying anything negative about our efforts?

    Or, if say, you are an organization that raises funds for solar ovens to be distributed to women all over Africa to save them countless hours collecting biomass for cooking? How about giving 100 of those things to kids like me all over the U.S. and we send you our favorite solar oven recipes? Maybe we even find a few flaws, but who knows, there may just be a way to make the future generation of donors feel like the ones asking them to help are just a reflection of themselves.

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