Can a bad event name or campaign help your nonprofit?

I recently read a great blog post about bad brand names, and that got me thinking.  Would a bad event name or nonprofit campaign have the same effect.   Here are some pros and cons to think about before you embark on a bad theme.


1.       Stands Out in the Clutter

We live in an era of clutter on every front and that includes event clutter.  In a sea of events that set out to be sweet, memorable, good and the like a bad, funny and sometimes shocking name definitely stands out. 

Project Kaisei, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and clean up of marine debris, is doing something a little bit taboo with their latest fundraising campaign—they are threatening a goldfish with polluted waters to entice potential donors to take action. Their Facebook campaign, ‘Save Kai’, put a goldfish named Kai in a segregated space within an aquarium filled with plastic pollution.  Supporters are invited to make donations to have pieces of the plastic removed from the tank before Kai is released into the deadly “Plastic Vortex” at the end of the month.
2.       Arouses Curiosity

What happens when your friend tells you about a bad habit of another friend or a colleague tells you that someone else in your team is lazy and inefficient?  Chances are you are ready to listen, even willing to accept and propagate the idea simply because sad as it is we tend to be more receptive to negative ideas. 

This is precisely what a bad campaign works on…our innate curiosity about the bad or the negative.  We cannot stop ourselves from wanting to know more about a negative consequence!

3.       It’s Controversial and in the News


A great example of a successful "bad" themed advertising effort.


Bad themes are like bad news…controversial and in the news! This means that a bad theme is like an instant ticket to fame. 

The shocking PETA ads are a prime example of in the news.   Whether you like them or not, you can’t deny the news coverage PETA has garnered from the sometimes scandalous ads.






 While bad nonprofit themes can do and have done wonders for many a nonprofit using them, they will not always produce the best results, here’s why…

1.       Short Term Effect

A bad theme will initially arouse curiosity, shock, dare, tease but its effects will largely be limited to the short-term.  Only a determined effort to deliver quality and the ability to keep people interested in the organization will help the organization retain donor interest and further build on it.  Simply relying on the theme or event is not enough!

 2.       Could Backfire

Bad campaigns are a strategy that could backfire simply because they have the potential to turn people off and offend them even while having the ability to pique curiosity and grab attention.  By all means pick a bad campaign but weigh the chances of this backfiring as a brand building move too! 

3.       Cannot Work Unless the Offering is Rock Solid

At the end of the day people donate to an organziation because they believe in the mission.  They don’t donate just because they like the name.  So unless your nonprofit is a rock solid offering a bad campaign or event could very easily end up ringing the death knell for your organization.

 Take-away: Think before you leap.  A bad name may be just what you need to get the awareness.  Be smart, prepared, and ready to take action before and after the launch to ensure success.