Powerful idea, wobbly strategy

Can you put into words the struggle of living with Multiple Sclerosis? Me neither, that’s why ThisBikeHasMS wants to show you.

Grey Australia, an Advertising Agency, have modified a bike to “simulate some of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) — a debilitating disease whose effects often go unseen. Its frame is imbalanced, its brakes numb to press, and its wheels heavily fatigued. Anyone who rides the bike will experience what it’s like to live with multiple sclerosis.”

The campaign has received rave reviews. There is a need for more initiatives like this to make people aware of patients’ daily struggles. No one should suffer in silence.

The concept is brilliant but the digital marketing strategy hasn’t been designed to meet it’s two primary goals:

  1. Fund raise — Raise $20,000 to continue vital MS services; and
  2. Educate — Increase understanding of MS in the medical profession and the wider community.

Two weeks after launch — despite some global press coverage and 37,000 YouTube views — only $540.80 has been raised. This is a respectable amount but given the quality of the concept, I believe this project isn’t reaching its potential.

How could the campaign be improved?

At first sight ThisBikeHasMS has done everything right. It has a beautifully designed parallax website with sharing features, a memorable name and distinct hashtag. The problem is that this project has been designed for awards, rather than outcomes in my opinion.

Content strategy: This is a terrific team

The primary content is a video describing the modifications that the exceptional team made to the bike to help the rider truly experience the struggle of MS. The video focuses on describing the ingenuity of the campaign, rather than maximizing donations or educating the public.

Additional short videos should be created focusing on:

  • Education — The symptoms of MS and a series of patient stories that viewers are happy to share. Given that the symptoms vary with each individual a series of patient stories would be possible.
  • Basic fundraising — The good work that MS services provide and how donating is crucial; and
  • Advanced fundraising — How you can get involved beyond donating, such as post a picture/video to encourage your friends to donate or organise an event.

Additional shareable content is needed to drive donations and truly raise the level of education.

Immersion: objectives-focused digital strategy

ThisBikeHasMS was created because it is incredibly difficult to explain MS symptoms unless you have experienced them. The primary goal of the digital strategy should be to help the medical profession and wider community understand these symptoms by experiencing them.

This can be done remotely through Google cardboard, for example, providing viewers with a shaky riding tour of Melbourne. However, for this project live events are likely to be the most effective.

Taking the bike on a tour for the three months prior to the MS Melbourne Cycle would be the best way for people to experience MS and feel first hand the challenge of living with the condition. Social media could be be used to drive engagement and interest at each event. A similar strategy was used in the ‘Fight against Cancer PunchBag’ in the Netherlands.

Fundraising: a clear call to donate

To encourage donations it needs to be clearer to people why they are donating. Information detailing why you should donate is hidden on a separate fundraising website.

The current call to action focuses on sponsoring the bike and the ingenuity of the team, rather than the crucial work of MS Peer Support and MS Employment Support. Programs that keep Aussies living with multiple sclerosis connected and in the workplace.

The website must include more information on MS and use more emotive calls to action to drive donations.

Use social: make it easy to get involved

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool. Users don’t need to be told how to get involved, to comment or to share. However, people do appreciate a little guidance as to how they can show support and how they can show they are part of a larger movement. For example, the above image illustrates what support to Suffering in Silence means and why it it is important.

Creating a version of the above for #bikewithms may boost conversation prior to the cycle ride, rather than asking people to follow the progress of the bike on social media during the event.

In a nutshell

The idea is amazing and with some tweaks to the digital strategy I am sure it can makes a real difference to MS sufferers in Australia.


These views are my own.