Literally. And maybe figuratively. But I won’t judge.
I noticed this bold statement when riding the Tube (London’s subway system) a few weeks ago while I was in the UK “on holiday” as the Brits would say. The clever line is slapped on nearly every subway car in London as part of an ad campaign to reduce littering on the underground.
It’s a no-frills ad—just one statement on a blank, white background. And yet, it successfully produces the, Excuse me, what? effect that makes you do a double take.
What I love about this piece of marketing is how strikingly simple it is. True, it’s slightly accusatory, but it also, for a split second and almost instinctively, roused my defenses and drew me in to make me question my own behaviors (and the population’s at large) around discarding rubbish.
London isn’t the only metropolis that’s tried to take on littering. In 2007, locals of Baltimore, MD sent in slogan ideas to accompany then Mayor Sheila Dixon’s campaign to reduce littering. Some of my favorites are:
- Come on, make your mother proud.
- Don’t feed the rats.
- Hey, I ain’t your maid. Pick that up.
The Don’t Mess with Texas organization is on a mission to make Texans aware of the negative costs of litter. One of their bumper stickers says: Keep your butts in the car. You can even report a litterer on their website. No joke, check it out.
By re-framing an important message I’ve heard over and over (Make our city glitter-don’t litter) in a clever way and sharing it in a somewhat counterintuitive aesthetic, I was reminded of my role in keeping a collective good, that we all take for granted, intact.
Let’s face it, every non-profit’s mission is somehow related to promoting the common good. But with so many causes to support and so many non-profits vying for our attention, it can be hard to stand out. Firing up your audience by appropriately calling them out can be an effective way to produce a gut re-action to your message while simultaneously calling for more pro-action towards your cause. Not only that, but this kind of messaging works on any budget.
Finding the right message that’s short and sweet can be daunting, maybe even a little nerve-wracking, How will our donors receive this? But this KISS (keep it simple, stupid) approach doesn’t automatically make you cheeky; it could be just the thing to make people think twice about your cause. And if you’re really concerned, it can easily be mellowed out by other, more neutral and direct ads. For example, the rubbish slogan is supplemented by this:
Even if you don’t fancy a quip messaging style, every non-profit can benefit from focusing on a bold message rather than busy prints, patterns, fonts and graphics that often distract people from the big picture. When a non-profit can:
- Craft a clever statement that seizes attention,
- Incentivize a change in the behaviors AND attitudes towards a cause by making the benefits personal, as well as…
- Give their audience the tools to step up right now, through articles, website links, video testimonies, or even trash bins (there are over 1,600 waste receptacles in or within walking distance of 270 Tube stations),
then its campaign becomes memorable. It gains traction that engages people in small, but frequent and concrete ways. From there, the organization has the ability to make meaningful, lasting relationships take root.
So be brave enough to ask your audience to DO something. Have the confidence in your cause to say, Step up to the plate. Then, they can put your clever words into action.