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The Case of the March of Dimes


ganization’s health information specialists provide expert answers to questions about pregnancy and birth defects. The problems the March of Dimes is trying to prevent and, when it can’t, the problems it has to deal with are very real, and they are widespread. Each day in America, 151 babies are born so small that they have to fight for their lives. Ninety-three are born with hearts that do not work properly. Seventy-seven die. But unlike polio, these threats, and the tragedies that often result, are more private and personal. The death of an infant or a lifetime of caring for a severely disabled child is a devastating experience for the family that must endure it. But it is fairly “invisible” to the rest of society. This is terrible, but it is not a contagious disease. Accordingly, until it happens to one of us, we like to think that we are somehow “immune.” As a result, it is much harder to arouse the kind of immediate passionate public support for “the prevention of birth defects” than it once was to rouse the public to defeat polio. And so, ironically, understanding the public and understanding how to connect people to this cause with some sense of urgency and passion are almost as important to today’s March of Dimes as is the breakthrough medical research that it sponsors. Again ironically, this non-profit organization (like many others) faces an even tougher challenge than most for-profit ventures—a challenge that demands a higher level of marketing sophistication: The March of Dimes is “selling a product”—prevention of birth defects—that people don’t even want to think about, let alone actively support. The organization is fighting faceless enemies: denial and apathy. Yet, it manages to stir up a tremendous amount of public support. Walk America, the March of Dimes’ major annual fundraising event, involves about 1 million participants stepping out to support children on a single day each year in the spring—average Americans in 1,400 communities across the country. Last year, WalkAmerica raised over $85.5 million. And since the event started in 1970, the organization, in total, has raised more than $1 billion. In spite of all the obstacles, how do they do it? A New Positioning In 1995, the March of Dimes Board of Trustees initiated a market research project intended to help understand and deepen the orga-

Profile for Lewis Lafontaine

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype