Christine Mau has had plenty of professional design success. Having recently become Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s European design director based near London, she's also led the U.S. effort behind the novel oval and wedge-shaped boxes for Kleenex, consulted on the highly successful U by Kotex launch, been an Advertising Age Woman to Watch and been named inventor on five patents.
But her pro bono project could have by far the biggest impact: Ms. Mau has been a sort of creative director and inspiration behind the new logo being officially launched today for No More -- a coalition fighting domestic violence and sexual assault that wants to establish its own version of the ubiquitous pink ribbon used by those fighting breast cancer.
It's a subject close to her heart, because Ms. Mau has been a victim of herself of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, first as a child in a home where she was a regular victim, then as a wife married as a teen to an abusive husband.
Now happily married and professionally accomplished, Ms. Mau is for the first time talking publicly about being a victim of abuse. And that's the whole point really of her work in helping brand something people generally don't want to talk about.
"There's stigma," Ms. Mau said. "There's shame. Nobody talks about it. And in a way, that gives the perpetrators power. They have power over me if I'm quiet and don't talk about it. If I start talking and people start talking around me, I feel more comfortable to talk. I feel more comfortable to get help. By raising awareness, it's removing the stigma, removing the shame."
In that sense, the big blue zero of No More is a far more direct marker than other cause-related logos. Pink ribbons raise awareness and money to fight breast cancer, as do the ubiquitous yellow ribbons to support troops or the increasingly common puzzle ribbons of autism awareness. But they do little to open a dialogue among survivors.
With No More "zero," the hope is that displaying can make it easier for people to talk about being victims, helping relieve the undeserved stigma, while also helping victims identify by sight people who can help.
"My hope is that it's like 'Horton Hears a Who,' where when everyone raises their voices together, they can be heard, so that when someone sees it they know you're someone to talk to, that you have zero tolerance, that you have awareness and this is something that's important to you," Ms. Mau said. "For me it shows it's something I stand for. I have it on my purse and bag."
In fact, people do want to help, in Ms. Mau's case ranging from a teacher who helped spot the signs of her abuse as a child to college friends who pointed out she wasn't being treated right.
Ms. Mau said she also sees displaying the symbol as a statement that: "My tolerance for this is pretty much zero. So people know when I'm in the room, the language, the stories, it has to be in compliance with that idea."
It's hard to know if the No More logo can have the kind of impact the pink ribbon or other cause-related logos have, but Ms. Mau senses marketers and others will warm to it quickly. "We're feeling a pull," she said. "We're not having to push this. Everyone we've asked to be involved, they're saying how can I do more? We're seeing the field support it."
Founding executives from Avon Products, Allstate, Verizon, Kaiser Permanente and Finn Partners were scheduled to join Ms. Mau in Washington on March 13 alongside celebrity advocates Mariska Hargitay and Twilight actress Ashley Greene in an event to formally launch the branding symbol.
"I feel like this is the next cause people are ready to tackle," Ms. Mau said. "We're finally getting to a point in society where we are talking about some of the more difficult things openly and honestly."
Ms. Mau, who in her day job has spent years getting people to think or talk about such things as feminine protection or adult incontinence, has some professional experience at that. That experience was, in fact, what led Vicky Rideout of VJR Consulting, who was working on the efforts originally begun by executives at Liz Claiborne and PR shop Finn Partners, to contact Ms. Mau. She was among the first people three years ago that Ms. Rideout contacted in an email to invite to one-day think tanks around developing the national branding effort, and Ms. Mau said yes within minutes.
Sterling Brands, New York, created the logo, Ms. Mau said, describing her own role as "facilitating the group to write a tight brief that clearly and concisely outlined our target and goals for the symbol."
Getting input from experts in the field who deal with sexual abuse and domestic violence was crucial, she said, as was getting the public's reaction in focus groups.
"We wanted to create a brand that was iconic, that would unify all of these little logos," she said. "Our goal was something universally recognized, unisex, that doesn't get too busy when it's in conjunction with another brand mark. We didn't want anything too literal." Ms. Mau said she was looking for something that would be bold while inviting discussion and curiosity.