Stupid claim that a color can do your job for you

Stupid ads

Colors can pack in quite a lot of emotional information. But if there were a color that somehow compelled viewers to pay attention, I figure we’d know about it because:

  1. It would have been discovered by advertisers or propagandists many years ago.
  2. It would be licensed for use selling soft drinks and athletic shoes, thus not available for fundraising.

Apparently not.

According to Pantone and United Way Centraide of Canada, a new color has been developed (wait, do you develop a color, or discover it?) that will make “local issues” “#unignorable.” That’s also the name of the color.

Here’s the amazing new color:

United_Way_color chip

It’s … red! Well, not quite. In fact, it’s suspiciously close to Pantone’s color of the year for 2019, living coral. (Do I detect a fad?)

To understand the claims for this color, you have to read the inevitable press release on this amazing new color: United Way and Pantone Color Institute™ Join Forces to Make Local Issues Unignorable. It quotes a Pantone executive with this little explosion of hyperbole:

To highlight these issues, we wanted to create a distinctive color that was virtually unignorable…. Displaying a radiant glow that instantly mesmerizes, this irresistibly captivating coral shade we call “unignorable” stands out from its surroundings, draws immediate attention and with its high physicality, induces us to act.

Making local issues “unignorable”?

That’s a heavy lift for a color.

Maybe the video will help clarify, since it’s not at all about those “local issues,” but about the campaign and the color itself, with what you might call “color porn”:

(Or view it here on YouTube.)

How does this color make “local issues” unignorable? And what exactly are “local issues”?

You can find out at this website. But the short answer is this: They use the color in abstract art depictions of abstract issues like this one:

United Way color art

The local issue you can no longer ignore now that you’ve seen this is homelessness. That’s the theory. Because of the color, this completely abstract image has grabbed your consciousness. Presumably, you are now looking for a way to donate.

Yes, that’s utterly ridiculous.

There are a lot more like that. Puzzling, abstract images that feature this coral-red color.

My question is this: Since when is a color more “unignorable” than a human face or a true story?

Answer: Never.

It’s another case of high-end branding “experts” bamboozling nonprofit executives who are bored with the job of actually communicating with people.

Our job is not to make issue unignorable. It’s to stir people to action.

That means connecting with the right people — meaning the ones most likely to care and take action.

That means giving them a reason to express their values through your organization. Which they’ll do when you get specific and make it about concrete action they can take.

Using the right color can be part of doing that effectively. But it’s a relatively small part.

Fundraising is hard. There are no shortcuts, no magic color that will force people to pay attention, care, and donate.

So if someone tries to sell you a shortcut, ignore them.

They’re completely #ignorable.

More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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