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American Heart Association Wants to Tug at Your Heartstrings

Health Group Goes From Fact-Based Ad Approach to Emotional Emphasis

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The American Heart Association is scrapping its educational, fact-based approach for a new emotionally-charged push to spread its message further.

The organization, which celebrates its 90th birthday this year, says facts aren't enough to keep Americans healthy - it needs to connect with them personally. The company started promoting public health to combat heart disease and stroke about six years ago and wanted get the message to a wider audience.

"For us to create this broader culture of health, we knew we would have to do even more to connect personally with the public," said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. "People in this world value time with their family and their friends and their loved ones. And the single most important thing that can give people that time is their health."

"Life Is Why," the American Heart Association's first rebranding in 80 years, centers around the idea that health is an essential part of the moments we value most – time spent with our loved ones. It's reaching out to the public, volunteers and donors to raise awareness for the brand.

The American Heart Association spent $4 million on the campaign, which includes digital, print, TV, social media and public relations. Ms. Brown said the brand's annual spending varies based on its projects, but it has been years since it put multiple millions of dollars toward a campaign. The group plans to weave the brand focus into community programs and events, as well as other campaigns like "Go Red for Women," which fights heart disease in women.

"This new brand positioning wraps around every single thing we do at the AHA," said Ms. Brown. "'Life Is Why' will allow us to help people see even more why our resources are important to them so they can be inspired to care about their health."

Social media is leading the charge by encouraging people to share their own stories using #lifeiswhy. The American Heart Association's campaign microsite and online ads also direct visitors to the Aviary app, its photo-sharing partner, where users can customize their photo submissions with graphics and filters. The photos are then uploaded to the microsite.

The push, which launched Aug. 1, drew 84,000 photo saves on the Aviary app in the first four days.

"The whole social strategy is to tell us what your 'why' is," said Kevyn Faulkenberry, VP-exec creative director of the Dalton Agency, which created the campaign. "The goal is to have people develop a brand affinity for the American Heart Association."

The campaign also includes TV spots focused on moms, who the organization views as a household's "chief health officer," and the ethnic groups it considers to be most at-risk: Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians. The ads, which break in December, will be airing in six high-risk cities based on ethnic, cultural and socio-economic reasons. They are San Antonio, Texas; El Paso, Texas; Atlanta; Memphis, Tenn.; Montgomery, Ala.; and San Diego, Calif.

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