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The number of new blood donors in the UK has fallen by 40% in the last decade, a worrying statistic for anyone aware of how critical blood transplants are in saving lives.

In a social media campaign that won them an award at the Masters of Marketing last year, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) took advantage of National Blood Week to try and turn the trend around.

The brief

A similar campaign the previous year generated more than 10,000 blood donor registrations, so that was the figure to beat in 2015. 

17-24 year olds were the primary target. Young, first-time registrants are the key to safeguarding the future blood supply given that they often become lifelong donors. 

But the issue of blood donation is a largely invisible one, so the NHSBT had to create something that immediately visualised the problem and illustrated the amount of blood missing from circulation. 

In partnership with Engine, the campaign it came up with was ‘Missing Type’.

The idea was to remove the letters 'A', 'O' and 'B' (all blood types) from the recognisable names, places and brands that we all interact with in everyday life, encouraging user-generated content from both individuals and organisations on social media channels. 

The work

In a fantastic example of experiential marketing, a small number of partner brands – including Odeon Leicester Square, Waterstones in Trafalgar Square and the street sign on Downing Street – helped kick off the campaign by removing letters from their signs in the run-up to National Blood Week.

downing street sign missing type NHS

waterstones sign missing type NHS

A number of partner brands and individuals also removed the letters from their social media accounts.

Launch day

NHSBT began a media campaign to raise awareness of the 40% drop in new donors.

It secured editorial coverage in every major print and online news title, as well as TV and radio coverage on shows such as Good Morning Britain, BBC Radio 2 and Sky News (below).

The Missing Type visuals were also featured on sites such as Buzzfeed, The Independent, UniLad and Huffington Post, generating an enormous amount of social shares and conversation among the target audience.  

Buzzfeed coverage of NHSBS missing type campaign

UniLad coverage of NHS missing type campaign

During the launch campaign, NHSBT revealed the hashtag #MissingType and encouraged people to lose the As, Os and Bs from their social media accounts and register to donate blood. 

National Blood Week

On 8 June – the first day of National Blood Week – the Daily Mirror published a 600,000-copy print run of its newspaper with the As and Os missing from its masthead. 

Daily Mirror removes letters on paper missing type NHS campaign

Other papers jumped on board, too. The Metro used its Good Deed Feed section to support the Missing Type campaign throughout the week. 

Radio One then picked up the story and from there it went viral.

Throughout the week, more than a thousand brands and organisations participated in #MissingType on social media, including household names such as Coca-Cola and even the Church of England. 

The results

  • 2bn people reached.
  • 30,000 new donors registered during National Blood Week.
  • 20,000 year-on-year (YoY) increase in new donor registrations.
  • 18,000+ 17-24 year olds registered (the target age group). 
  • 550 pieces of media coverage. 
  • 27,000 tweets containing #MissingType or #giveblood hashtags. 
  • 353% YoY increase in traffic to blood.co.uk (more than 43,000 sessions). 
Jack Simpson

Published 7 January, 2016 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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