Brand Identity Key To Mental Illness Fundraising Success

August 15, 2013 Alistair McHarg

When we gaze fondly backwards and survey the expansive history of medicine, certain names come to mind immediately. Hippocrates, Philip Syng Physick, and Donovan Leitch, who popularized the practice of bloodletting before going on to become a folk singer of some renown.

When the focus is on mental health, there can be no debate that Freud, Jung, and Lafayette Ronald Hubbard are elbowing each other for center stage.

But there is a world even loftier than these, harder to define and understand. It is a world where art meets science, science meets commerce, commerce meets art and confusion doesn’t merely reign, it pours. I am referring of course to the incomprehensible, Byzantine maze of human activity loosely referred to as fundraising.

Until recently, conversations about healthcare funding led inevitably to the great Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser Permanente, third son of Kaiser Wilhelm II, made healthcare history by creating the nation’s first, physician-centric Integrated Health Network predicated on an HMO model. Mr. Permanente could not be matched when it came to putting dollars to work in the service of healthcare, some would say wellness. Then came Susan G. Komen®.

From now until the end of this article, or forever, whichever comes first, I will be using the ® whenever I write the name Susan G. Komen®. As I just did. The reason for this is simple. This dynamo, this marketing fundraising genius, is not a mere person like the rest of us, oh no, she, gentle reader, is a brand. We know Susan G. Komen® and we respect Susan G. Komen® because Susan G. Komen® has done the impossible – she made cancer cute. When cancer became cute, people wanted to give it money.

In the pink. To be clear, Susan G. Komen® does not own the color pink, nor is she related to the performer traveling under the soubriquet Pink. But therein lies her genius, because she has managed to link pink – a cute and happy color – with cancer – an unattractive disease – and her own fundraising efforts. She does not raise money for cancer research, she raises money for Susan G. Komen® cute pink cancer research. Indeed, when tracked by order of importance it goes like this 1. Susan G. Komen® 2. Pink 3. (distant third) cancer.

If the mental illness community is ever to get into the fundraising game for real, it had better take a page from Susan G. Komen® and think in terms of high-impact branding. We are intelligent, resourceful, creative people. If Susan G. Komen® can make cancer adorable then we should be able to make Tourette’s Syndrome charming, Depression fun, Paranoia welcoming, and Narcissism selfless. Let’s get going before all the cool colors are taken.

APA Reference
McHarg, A. (2013, August 15). Brand Identity Key To Mental Illness Fundraising Success, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Alistair McHarg

Tom Cloyd, MS, MA
August, 15 2013 at 11:31 pm

Lord help us - you're a funny man. Freud, Jung, and...Hubbard? Who IS this IDIOT - my first thought. I kept reading, and miraculously, my mood improved. Whoa! Strong DRINK doesn't work THAT fast.
So here I am, a minute or two older, and a lot wiser, and smiling broadly. Well done, Sir!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
August, 16 2013 at 2:26 am

Just a wonderful comment, Tom, thank you so much. Welcome to the party!

August, 15 2013 at 1:42 pm

Hi Alistair! We have Roswell Park Cancer Institute where I live, and they have the Ride for Roswell every year. Great fundraiser and hospital. Haven't noticed any colors connected with it though.
As for the mentally ill community,perhaps turquoise would work. I don't think anyone has it and it is the only one I can come up with that isn't already taken. Perhaps it can be combined with grey. Who knows,someone may have already trademarked the combination for the mentally ill without our knowledge. Have a great week. :)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
August, 16 2013 at 7:06 am

Hi Cindy: Instead of tying up a whole color - how about a nice Jackson Pollock painting?

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