Thursday, November 29

Gilda's Club

News broke yesterday that several local chapters of Gilda's Club will be changing their name.  For those of you who don't know, Gilda's Club was founded by Gene Wilder in memory of his beloved wife Gilda Radner who succumbed to cancer.  It's a support center for family and friends of those living with cancer.
"For those of you who don't know" is the key phrase here.

The local chapters who are changing the name are doing it because they fear people don't know who Gilda Radner is anymore, and therefore losing meaning to the younger generations who need the help.

They want to call it the "Cancer Support Center."

A noble quest for sure ... and I'm sure that these are the best intentioned people in the world.  But I just gotta say that it doesn't make any sense to me.  From a marketing perspective.

As with any brand, if you want to keep up with the younger generations and stay relevant ... look to the principles of good brand management and marketing.  Washington DC isn't changing the name of the monuments because the tourists are too young to remember Thomas Jefferson.  They continue to promote them and also add new ones.

Brands keep evolving by weaving in new things for the younger generations, not by taking away what made them what they are to begin with.  Bring in some other new names, broaden the perspective ...  embrace the younger folks who are now going through the same struggles that Gilda and Gene did by growing, not shrinking.

IMHO, the Cancer Support Center is generic and unmotivating.  Honoring those who have struggled before you is quite inspirational.  Brands are built on emotions and built on adding value to people's lives ... Gilda's Club has both so why take it away when it can be easily evolved.

The irony is that by changing the name, the "brand" is doing exactly what I would bet most of their audience doesn't want to have happen:  with cancer, after awhile, you are gone and forgotten.  I doubt that's the "brand equity" that the organization would want.  It's an awful feeling and the wrong emotion.

Now I'm looking at this from a marketing perspective and to me it's an intellectual discussion and very simple.  But I've had a lot of very personal experience as well.  And from that perspective it's very emotional and sad.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
Author, The Experience Effect series
Marketing Professor, NYU

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