From pantone to participation – how an #UNIGNORABLE colour drove marketing success for United Way

4 minute read

United Way masters the art of being #UNIGNORABLE in the competitive non-profit sector. The integrated campaign artfully unifies local issues with an attention-getting colour to increase donations and local love.

How to be heard in a sea of shouting voices

It’s impossible to solve community problems until you have people’s attention. It’s equally difficult to secure donations when people aren’t clear about what United Way stands for in a sea of worthy causes. There are so many charities vying for share of wallet.

Ipsos reports that the number of people giving to charities increased in 2017, but people are giving less. And, when asked to evaluate effectiveness, Canadians placed more emphasis on a charity’s ability to achieve its mission and create impact.

United Way needed to emphasize what it does, and why it matters in a way that would not only raise the profile of its causes but also make this non-profit stand out.

Standing out with an #UNIGNORABLE colour

United Way wanted to address eight issues that affect Canadians in every community: domestic violence, mental health, unemployment, homelessness, education inequality, social isolation, poverty and hunger.

Eight pieces of artwork used in the Unignorable campaign. Each addresses an issue that affects Canadians in every community: domestic violence, mental health, unemployment, homelessness, education inequality, social isolation, poverty and hunger.

Eight pieces of artwork used in the #UNIGNORABLE campaign. Each addresses an issue that affects Canadians in every community: domestic violence, mental health, unemployment, homelessness, education inequality, social isolation, poverty and hunger.

Local issues can be easy to ignore. The strategy was to make them “unignorable” and the campaign objective was to increase visibility.

Charities are good at putting a face to an issue, but what about a colour? The Pantone Color Institute® was selected to create one unifying colour for the eight concerns. Applying the science of colour resulted in a vivid, neon, coral orange, created specifically for United Way.

INCITING action with local love

The #UNIGNORABLE platform was launched with United Way’s largest integrated campaign to date. Building on the colour, the multimedia campaign draws on a tradition of art as activism, using custom art by Malika Favre to represent the eight issues. #UNIGNORABLE came to life through film, video, social, out-of-home, experiential events, merchandising partnerships and direct mail.

Toronto kicked off its campaign with an interactive installation at Nuit Blanche. In film and video, the #UNIGNORABLE colour draws attention to issues: a van that’s home to someone, the food tray of a hungry child, a bullying text, a chair that bars the door to domestic violence. Each ended with the words “local issues can be easy to ignore, we’re making them #UNIGNORABLE.”

An image of a physical art installation at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, supporting the launch of United Way’s #UNIGNORABLE campaign. Source: blogTO

An image of a physical art installation at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, supporting the launch of United Way’s #UNIGNORABLE campaign. Source: blogTO.

The direct mail campaign reached 200,000 addresses. Each mailing concentrated on a different campaign issue, with stories chosen to align with video assets. In future, United Way hopes to further personalize direct mail to match the problems in each neighbourhood they target.

For one of the mailers, a bold rectangle of the Pantone covered most of the envelope – highlighting #UNIGNORABLE. The power of the message inside hit close to home. “An estimated 35,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night. That’s an issue we can’t ignore.” Another mailing brought to life the story of Mike, whose world was changed by United Way after he’d spent years living on the street. Prospective donors were encouraged to “Show Your Local Love” and to give by mail, phone or online at uwgta.org/donate. The mailing also drove to online video content showing how United Way funds change lives.

Learn how campaigns like #UNIGNORABLE generate marketing impact.

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Visible results from effective marketing

An investment in a unifying and distinctive brand, and a focus on amplifying visibility proved to be a winning formula that delivered stronger year-over-year campaign effectiveness and overall return on investment.

  • Greater Toronto, the largest United Way in North America, raised a record-breaking $110 million.
  • Paid media delivered 218 million impressions, excluding direct channels.
  • The campaign also brought together regional chapters of United Way. The investment in shared resources and more coherent messaging boosted the overall effectiveness of fundraising.
Direct mail piece for Unignorable.

Direct mail piece for #UNIGNORABLE.

For the first time ever, United Way got a thank you message from a donor who received one of their direct mail pieces in the GTA: “Just had to write and say that I received my #UNIGNORABLE donation package and was impressed with its simple and personal message. It certainly compelled me to donate to the United Way! I love it!”

Unignorable results, for sure. Louise Bellingham, VP Communications and Brand Strategy adds, “While the campaign only launched in the fourth quarter of 2018, it resulted in unprecedented campaign recall and positive impressions for the brand in our 2018 Brand Health research. It also showed a very high potential lift for stronger brand affinity and future donation intent for those exposed to the campaign. We are thrilled with the initial results and continue to expand and extend the creative platform to more markets across the country.”

The platform is now extending to all markets, and for the first time ever to francophone Canada as #JamaisIndifférents. An exciting new augmented reality experience highlighting poverty is the centrepiece for the October 2019 launch in the GTA.


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