Putting a face on swine flu

We’ve all heard of the Amber Alert (named after a 9-year-old kidnap victim in Texas). And most people are familiar with the Brady Bill (named for presidential press secretary Bill Jim Brady, shot during the Reagan assassination attempt) that mandates background checks for gun purchasers. Since 1948, the Jimmy Fund (named after a 12-year-old cancer patient who went on the radio to talk about his disease) has been raising money for pediatric cancer treatment.

It’s no secret that people are more likely to pay attention to a movement, a brand, or a product that has a human-interest story attached. Naming a program after a survivor (or a victim) has a powerful impact. Nonprofit fundraisers know this (Gilda’s Club and the Susan G. Koman Foundation). But government agencies rarely use this dramatic marketing tactic  — even when lives hang in the balance.

Marketer Seth Godin, noting that more than 50 percent of parents in New York City initially kept their children out of the government swine flu vaccine program there, says “If I was marketing the swine flu vaccine, I’d name it after a kid who died last season.”

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