Brand specialist Darren Taylor helps us glean the key take-outs from the Celeste Barber campaign, in our new fortnightly column with The Xfactor Collective.
We’ve seen from our most recent bushfire crisis (and other major tragedies before it) that Australians are willing to reach into their pockets in times of national crisis. In a pool of over half a billion dollars donated, why did Celeste Barber’s famed Facebook campaign, which hauled in around $8 million a day at the height of the crisis, exceed everyone’s expectations including Celeste herself?
The complications of distributing the funds aside, why was her brand so successful in attracting over $50 million, and particularly from young and first-time donors? What can other organisations learn from this to improve their fundraising?
If I said to you last year that in 2020, $51 million would be given to a Facebook bushfire appeal fund headed by comedian Celeste Barber, you would have laughed me under the table. And that with the said fund, it was unclear how the money would be distributed, you would have laughed me out of town.
But it did happen. Sure, Celeste had 6.4 million raving Instagram fans to get the money flowing, but it was her brilliant brand that ultimately roped in the cash.
Celeste is influential because of her comedic talent and reach, but she is not an ‘influencer’. She sends them up! She taps into a human truth that most people detest: the body-beautiful and life-perfect images fed to us by advertising and social media. She does this by hilariously sending up many celebrities with her dorky imitations of glamour behaviour. Harper’s Bazaar, in the article ‘Queen of Comedy’ (February 4, 2020), describes her genius: “She speaks our collective truth and we love her for it. We know she’s genuine, that she’s on our side.” Her honesty and hilarity cut through, emotionally connects and is talked about.
“If you are doing something that stands out, that emotionally connects, and if you are effective in telling others about it in the appropriate forums, the viral effect will kick in and you will be talked about.”
To support your fundraising activities, what is your brand doing to cut through?
How are you representing your cause uniquely? What is your brand doing to relate to new audiences? Are you taking some risks? Do you have the courage to march to the beat of a different drum? The Epilepsy Foundation recently did this by partnering with The Block contestants, Mitch and Mark, to create a fundraising event to coincide with their recent emotional plea on A Current Affair for life-saving medications to be made available.
What are you doing to emotionally connect? Is there a universal human truth that your brand owns? What is your call to arms that stirs the heart as well as the head?
Sydney University’s famed $1 billion INSPIRED initiative is an example of a highly emotive campaign brand that pulled in unprecedented funds to support important causes, including cancer research, restoring vision for the visually impaired and reviving ancient languages, among others.
An emotive call to arms can make people do unusual things! Like the anonymous American who arrived at the Sydney University with Picasso’s Jeune Fille Endormie, valued at $20 million, in his suitcase to donate to the campaign. He was quoted saying, ‘When you own a valuable painting like this, it sort of owns you back,’ as he presented his gift. ‘For the first time in a long, long while, I finally feel free.’
Is your brand being talked about? If you are doing something that stands out, that emotionally connects, and if you are effective in telling others about it in the appropriate forums, the viral effect will kick in and you will be talked about.
Even if Celeste Barber was a social media ‘influencer’, she most likely wouldn’t be a good fit for your brand. But with her recent bushfire appeal, almost by accident, she has shown us that the seeming impossible is possible with a strong brand that stands out and emotionally connects.
Top three things fundraising organisations can learn from Celeste Barber:
- What are you doing to make your brand stand out? Are you taking some risks? Are you marching to the beat of a different drum? Are you going against the grain in your sector? Think about forging partnerships with unexpected brands or people to re-energise your brand and to connect with new audiences. Remember brand actions are more powerful than words.
- What are you doing for your brand to emotionally connect with your audiences? Think about a universal human truth that your brand can solve or address? What is your brand’s unique views and way of telling them? Humour may not be appropriate in all cases, but it can be very effective.
- What are you doing for your brand to be talked about? If you are doing something that stands out, that emotionally connects, and are effective in telling others about it in the appropriate forums, you will be noticed and talked about.
Darren Taylor is a specialist business member of The Xfactor Collective – an Australian-first community comprising highly experienced and pre-vetted specialist businesses across 300+ areas of specialisation. The Collective makes it easier for organisation leaders to connect quickly and easily with specialist support through a sector-first helpdesk service, and also a Platform to search/connect with specialists. F&P readers can find out more here.