To shock to incite donations, how far can we go?

The end of the year represents a particular time framework for communication campaign since it brings to light social causes next to Christmas advertisement. This year, the non-governmental organization (NGO) Médecins sans Frontières’ (Doctors without Borders) ads with trash images of battlefield and refugees’ camps were sharing our favorite magazines ad pages with Santa Claus and glasses of Champagne. However, is the old strategy of choc, of which “Action contre la faim” opened the way in France in the 90’s, nowadays still worthy to use to initiate donations?


Stimulating emotions to generate reactions?

How can we increase NGO’s communication campaigns efficiency such as Amnesty International, Action Contre la Faim, Reporters sans Frontières? This is the question addressed by Jeanne Albouy in her article published in Research and Applications in Marketing. By using an online experiment among 1200 participants, the author drawn up the first efficiency levers to improve current NGO’s communication campaigns. With a focus on a specific cause, the fight against hungriness, the study measured the emotional degree of the humanitarian campaign with several advertisement efficiency criteria; the manipulation of the advertisement emotional degree (low, medium, high) had been obtained by modifying the visual emotional input of the Africans children image suffering of hungriness (trouver dénutris).

The findings and conclusions of the study are a real guidance for professionals and managers of the area. In humanitarian campaign, the efficiency is heavily related to the emotional input inferred from the communication message; the use of chocking ads showing a hard and rough reality, generating highly negative emotions and strong empathy, increases the message persuasion strength. To choc and “émouvoir”, through the empathy towards the victims and their situation, contributes to a better evaluation of the NGO, its communication campaign and tends to engage more consumers to adopt an effective charitable behavior.

A necessary targeting strategy

The efficiency of the message is even more important since the people targeted by the emotional humanitarian campaign are usually not engaged in the cause advertised, meaning the chocking advertisement strategy is more efficient for non-donators or occasional donators. These results demonstrate that humanitarian organizations should revised their position for using more emotional campaign but only if it is combined with a real targeting strategy. Yet, the risk afterward is to have a weaker effect along the time due to a habituation to the trash images. As well, it is also needed to understand the impact of such communication campaign on regular donators to avoid rejection. Chocking occasional donators and creating viral campaign without exposing regular donators is a real funambulism exercise for these organizations!

So, hold on your tissues, humanitarian campaign has just started to shake you up !

Albouy, J. (2017) Emotions and prosocial behaviours: A study of the effectiveness of shocking charity campaigns, Research and Applications in Marketing, 32(2), 4-25.

About Mind Your Sense

Je suis une consultante-chercheure indépendante en quête d'aventures intellectuelle, humaine, opérationnelle, organisationnelle, professionnelles, etc. Une vie faite de rencontres et d'expériences variées, riches et belles me permet aujourd'hui de proposer de vous faire entrer dans mon aventure, si vous le voulez ! A votre écoute si vous chercher un accompagnement de vos client(e)s, de vos étudiant(e)s, vos collaborateurs(trices) dans le cadre marketing, pédagogique, et de recherche.
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1 Response to To shock to incite donations, how far can we go?

  1. Pingback: Shock charity campaigns: A guide for fine research | The Blog of the French Marketing Association

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