L__king b_ck at NZ Bl__d Service’s Missing Type c_mp_ign

The New Zealand Blood Service took part in the largest ever global donor recruitment campaign last month, where the letters A and O were removed from logos, brand names and social media accounts to draw attention to the urgent need for more donors. We chat to NZBS national manager of marketing and communications Asuka Burge about the experience rolling out the campaign in New Zealand and what challenges came with it.

The campaign, using the hashtag #MissingType, targeted over a billion people with 21 blood services urging leading businesses, charities and celebrities to remove A’s and O’s from their logos in demonstration for the need of these blood types. 

In New Zealand Trade Me, Vodafone Warriors, Foodstuffs, NZME and Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra were a few of the organisations that backed the campaign with social media posts removing the A’s and O’s.

The Auckland District Health Board removed the letters from signage at its hospitals and even landmarks like the Ohakune Carrot and the Lemon & Paeroa Bottle supported the cause.

The campaign was first launched in England and North Wales by the UK National Health Service, according to NZBS national manager marketing and communications Asuka Burge, and is the brainchild of MHP Communications.

It was then proposed to the international blood centre services industry, with the idea of making it global this year.

To a brand a logo is everything, and it’s generally considered branding 101 not to mess with it, but Burge says she was surprised by how forthcoming, willing and open some of the big organisations were that dropped the A’s and O’s from their branding.

“We had very few people say ‘No, we can’t do that’. But we were blown away by the companies that got on board who were quite happy to get behind this great campaign for a great cause, mess with their brand and help us out.”

She says brands that stood out in particular were ones owned by Foodstuffs and Fonterra. She says Wellington Airport also removed letters from its sign, which was obviously seen by everyone moving in and out of the airport.

“Trade Me [too]were very early adopters of the campaign and really did amazing stuff for us so we are really grateful because without their contributions we couldn’t have made the campaign what it was.”

There were originally 48 organisations on board, and Burge says and the difficulty in being involved with the campaign depended on the size of the organisation and the approval process they had.

“We tried to make it as easy as possible. So, we provided a toolkit, which is still available on our website, containing some art files brands could use.”

The ones that got behind it, really got behind it, she says.

“It was really awesome to see Pak N’ Save and New World ads losing the A’s and seeing all these tweets from everyone, it really raised awareness.”

When deciding on brands to approach, Burge says it looked at iconic Kiwi brands or ones that had a decent social media following as well as ones the NZBS was associated with, like the Child Cancer Foundation.

“Part of the campaign was [also]to provide some iconic images of New Zealand so those could be shared as part of the global pack. So we shared the L&P bottle, the Wellington Airport sign, the Shotover Jet and the Ohakune carrot.”

Burge says there was also a lot of regional companies involved. “They would send us the signage [of their businesses]and we had that all feeding through social to showcase what they were doing and thank them for being part of it.”

She says the Air Force Museum in Christchurch removed its O’s and A’s, as did Gisborne Hospital and the Starship Foundation.

The results far exceeded her expectations, Burge says, and the response to the campaign was overwhelming.

“The campaign struck a chord with many people who realised it was more than just a clever hashtag. During the campaign, we had a 7,400 percent increase in online registrations and over 2,000 people registered to become first-time blood donors in 10 days. These new donors have the potential to save and improve the lives of up to 6,000 people.”

While we refer to the storage space for blood as a ‘blood bank’, it’s not really a bank at all as blood cannot be stored for a long time. Many do not realise that blood only lasts for 35 days, and the supply needs to be constantly replenished. So, part of the challenge the NZ Blood Service faces every year lies in overcoming the perception that single donation is sufficient, and that the blood will remain intact indefinitely like bags of gold coins in a so-called ‘bank’. If anything, this serves as an important reminder of the powerful connotations a simple four-letter word might carry.   

“We need that continuous supply. Regular current donors could change medication, travel, age and can’t donate anymore which is why we need the new donors on board.”

She says the service set the ambitious target of gaining 10,000 first-time donors. “While there is still a lot of work to do to reach that figure, its confident the success of Missing Type means more New Zealanders are considering the importance of becoming a blood donor.

In the first 48 hours of its launch, Missing Type hit the top three trending topics on Twitter. The campaign started with 48 partners, and before long, more than 80 companies had joined the call to help encourage people to become first-time donors.

She says the service is still accepting registrations online. If you would like to register to donate, click here.

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