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Viral Hall of Fame 2008

Viral Hall of Fame 2008
Pink for the Cure

MarketingSherpa Summary:
Bolstering the battle against breast cancer, General Mills launched this campaign to spread hopeful stories of those touched by the disease. An elaborate MySpace page was created and partnerships were formed with celebrities and a network of breast cancer survivors and activists. Visitors could share their stories, comment and download badges and backgrounds for their own pages. The campaign reached more than 2.7 million people, gained thousands of MySpace friends and received great feedback from participants.

Agency: OLSON
Client/company: General Mills
Brand campaign was conducted for: Pink for the Cure
Launch date of campaign: Oct. 3, 2007
Target audience/demographic: Women ages 25 to 50 who have been touched by breast cancer

Campaign Goal:
Build an online campaign during Breast Cancer Awareness Month that shared simple stories of hope - as opposed to ways to learn more, make a donation or join a walk. Position General Mills as the marketer most committed to beating the disease - not just another trendy "pink marketer" with a message that could get lost in a sea of sameness. Committing to a year-round, long-term social networking movement designed to deliver optimism, encouragement and comfort to those affected by breast cancer.

Through initial research to measure "pink" motivators and the virality of the topic "breast cancer" online, General Mills and OLSON developed the Pink for the Cure campaign based on the following strategies:
  • Go to where the people are - partner with a proven social-networking organization
  • Walk the walk - engage celebrity spokespeople who have personal connections to the disease, partner with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and feature genuine stories
  • Empower the impassioned - enable consumers to become evangelists of the program by giving them an opportunity to give and receive hope via online story sharing, comments and site participation
The campaign was developed as a combination of public relations (both online and offline) and as a partnership with the MySpace community. Key outreach tools included:
  • Brand community site on MySpace -
  • The site used an engaging mosaic ribbon to showcase every story and allowed users to view and search stories in multiple ways to receive the hope they needed in the battle against breast cancer.
  • Partner with Ellen DeGeneres and former 'American Idol' finalist Kimberley Locke; both have a personal connection to the disease.
  • Outreach to influential social media sites to announce the launch of the Pink for the Cure program and encourage these impassioned online community members to spread the hope.
To ensure the site delivered on its goal of sharing hope, the following metrics were tracked: number of site visitors, stories shared and time spent on the site. In addition, recognition by the online breast cancer community and influencers was the key to measuring success and establishing the community for future growth.

Seed Strategy:
Before the launch date, General Mills and OLSON identified the most influential online social networkers dedicated to the cause and tapped their communities to effectively rally tens of thousands of supporters.The campaign began with some of the most passionate breast cancer advocates: chapter members of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Members were encouraged to log on before the launch and share their stories for the opportunity to earn additional donations for their chapter.

At the launch, a one-day MySpace homepage takeover announced Pink Together. It engaged members at every point of their experience and started the viral buzz. From this launch, the organic nature of the partnerships allowed members to virally find out about the new community via profile friend badges, downloadable badges for use on other social sites and downloadable desktop wallpapers.

Buzz Generated:
From online outreach and buzz, the campaign secured more than 185 million earned media impressions (without using a multiplier) and more than 50 social media hits - beyond the thousands within the MySpace community - reaching more than 2.7 million people. Guests also recognized General Mills for their support:
  • "There is a lot going on to bring awareness of breast cancer to full throttle this month and, so far, none have touched me as much as" - Fit Sugar
  • "PinkTogether encourages its visitors to share their stories and struggles in hopes that they will provide inspiration for others. I don't know about you, but I will be eating more than my fair share of Cheerios this month."- Health Intelligence Networ
  • "So, to help you out here is another way for you to raise money without doing anything out of the ordinary: EATING! While you are at the grocery this month, check out these items that you probably buy anyway … General Mills: Cheerios Cereal, Nature Valley Granola Bars, Progresso Soup. General Mills has also agreed to donate $2 million to Susan G. Komen for the Cure." - The Blog Around The Corner
Specific (Goal-Related) Campaign Results:
While no numbers can measure the emotional outpourings and engagement experienced in its first year, after launch the community virally exploded. Stories shared and profile "friends" climbed by the hour, ultimately proving some impressive results:
  • In October alone, there were more than 224,827 unique site visits (232,779 total visits).
  • Those who visited spent more than 10,863 hours on the site (more than 350 hours daily) with an average visit of 3 minutes.
  • Visitors wanted to share hope, with 1,420 stories submitted, including Ellen DeGeneres, Betty DeGeneres (her mother) and singer Kimberley Locke.
  • Shared stories were read more than 41,100 times in October.
  • In addition, 7,454 friends joined in October, and more than 650 friend comments were posted.
While site activity was concentrated in October, the Pink for the Cure campaign established a passionate, engaged community on year-round. And General Mills is committed to broadening its reach and engagement in year two.

Biggest Lesson:
Even virally-driven campaigns need jumpstarts. You can't just launch something and hope that it takes off. The partnership with MySpace provided the "Big Bang" that was needed, at which point people - the most powerful medium of all - took over.