- Mon, March 18 2013
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
This is the question recently posed* by Slate’s Seth Stevenson in reference to the case of Karen Klein, the bullied bus monitor in upstate New York. Students called her horrible names and brought her to tears. When video of her torment was posted online, a groundswell of appalled people donated more than $700,000 to a spontaneous campaign on IndieGoGo. (Klein accepted the money, retired and put $100,000 of the sum toward an anti-bullying cause she created.)
As Stevenson notes, campaigns to help suffering individuals crop up online everyday - including for people in life and death situations - but they rarely spark the scale of reaction to Karen Klein. What was it about this particular situation that prompted a response from 32,000 donors?
Stevenson asked Stephen Reicher, a psychology professor at Scotland’s University of St Andrews, and Reicher cited the following factors - which should be familiar to those of us who enjoy reading about behavioral economics!
1. A tangible cause: As Reicher told Stevenson, “To say lots of people are suffering is an abstract concept. To see this one woman suffering, and be able to help her, is more concrete.” This is the identifiable victim or singularity effect I’ve often cited on this blog.
2. Archetypal elements: Reicher talked about how the video causes us to flash back to our own childhoods on the school bus, which is powerful. It also inverts roles - the children are bullying the adult, which seemed to evoke strong emotions. This reminds me of the Story Wars idea—that basic universal themes unite audiences around causes.
3. Online dynamics: The network effects of the Internet encourage piling on - and can guide our actions. We see this in fundraising all the time - collective action begets more collective action. We join the crowd.
Bottom line? What we know works, worked in a big way because of Karen Klein’s story. Remember that, above all, is always the root of every movement. There is someone who stood for something - or meant something to us - and everything grows from that.
*Hat tip to Clam Lorenz for sending me this article!