- Tue, May 22 2007
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
Photo by Vidiot at flickr.
What if you were put in charge of getting more funding for food stamps? How would you market that idea? What would get media coverage? Blog comments? Attitude change?
A good answer is in today’s Washington Post. (Other articles from the Post here.) While I was eating a burnt waffle fresh from my daughter’s breakfast reject pile this morning, I read about how the House Hunger Caucus launched a Food Stamp Callenge. The caucus chairs asked lawmakers to try to live off $21 in food stamps for the past week - the amount of benefits the average recipient receives. Only four members of Congress did it - but their experiences got a lot of attention. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) struggled through with one lapse (he succumbed to a pork chop before a commencement speech so he wouldn’t faint from hunger). He described his heartbreak when airport security confiscated his PB&J and his fear of dropping a jar of sauce or jam because he’d lose a meal. He said he learned two things - that he made some poor choices shopping and the food stamp program is insufficient. Ryan and Jim McGovern (D-Mass) kept blogs about the experience, and got hundreds of comments, including food stamp recipients who sent recipes and tips for stretching meals.
Says McGovern, who lost five pounds: “I’ve been a little low on energy, but I feel guilty complaining about anything. For us, this is an exercise that ends Tuesday. For millions of people, this is their life.”
This all reminds me of the famous press conference when advocates of better school lunches trotted out cafeteria ketchup and showed it was classified as a vegetable years ago. Taste that.
Or when an advocacy group for better sidewalks put local officials in wheelchairs and told them to try to cross the street.
Or Oxfam’s fundraising fasts.
If you have any idea you are trying to convey, sometimes there is no better way than to put the policymaker or supporter through the experience. They might do it for the right reasons - or, in the case of some folks, simply because they want the media spotlight. Either way, it may well be a transformative experience for them, as well as a way for you to help a broader audience imagine what it would be like to live a harder life.
Imagine if these lawmakers had just held a press conference instead. Yawn. Imagine if you canceled your next press conference and did something like this instead. Wow.