Clear Leadership, Clear Message

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's "Someday Is Today" campaign is a good case study in marketing and branding---and a great one in leadership.

In this month’s Associations Now, I wrote about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which earlier this year rebranded itself under the banner of “Someday Is Today.” It’s an unusual effort, blurring the lines between a short-term fundraising campaign and an organizational identity that’s much more enduring. “Someday Is Today” was intended to help spike donations (which it has), but it’s also meant to create the image that you’ll associate with LLS for years to come.

Tall order. I’ve read and written enough about fundraising and branding efforts separately to know that undertaking just one of those things alone can cause tension—skeptical board members, staff disagreement over tactics, endless vetting of the final brochures,  ads, and logos. Lisa Stockmon, LLS’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, suggested that one thing that helped was clarifying the end goal from the start. “When we sat down, we talked about how we begin to develop a brand platform—not just a fundraising platform—that makes sense and that’s compelling and creates an emotional connection,” she says.

Urgency and focus go a long way toward untangling the knots in any big project.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that there was not just enthusiasm from the top, but a mission that would qualify as one of Jim Collins’ Big Hairy Audacious Goals: LLS CEO John Walter’s directive to Stockmon was “to make sure everyone in the United States is aware of what we do.”

As the story explains, Stockmon put that ambition into motion with the help of a marketing firm, Interplanetary, to integrate the message with a new look for LLS’s various websites. Stockmon describes the process—which, remarkably, started in the fall of 2012 and hit TV screens and bus ads by the following spring—as fairly frictionless. “[There was] lots of tweaking in terms of just making sure it resonated with our key stakeholders,” she says. “It’s interesting when you haven’t done a large consumer-facing or constituent-facing campaign.  There’s certainly a lot of excitement.  But I think we definitely had the wind at our back because it was so desperately wanted.”

I admire the way Stockmon casually mentioned “lots of tweaking.” I don’t doubt that the process produced more than its fair share of headaches and disagreements, and that those tweaks weren’t always easy. But one thing that became clear to me writing the story is that urgency and focus go a long way toward untangling the knots in any big project. In LLS’s case, it led to a message that’s simple, effective, and emotionally powerful:

How have you helped steer big projects to fruition, while managing the inevitable snags that come up? Let us know in the comments.

Some of the many faces featured in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's "Someday Is Today" campaign. (courtesy image)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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