Case Study

Purple Toes

The Power of Promotion

Purple Toes Campaign raises awareness and donations for The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation

The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF), established in 2006, has become one of the largest patient-founded, patient-focused, and patient-driven philanthropies devoted exclusively to eradicating lung cancer through research, early detection, education, and treatment. The Foundation’s goal is to work with a diverse group of physicians, organizations, industry partners, individuals, patients, survivors, and their families to identify solutions and make timely and meaningful change, and turn lung cancer into a chronically managed disease by 2023.

“From the moment we first heard about the Purple Toes campaign we recognized that people of all ages and genders could participate. Our biggest surprise was not the national media attention, it was the power of what one single nail file and bottle of purple nail polish could do.”

Bonnie Addario

Founder and Chair, Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation

The Power of Purple

In 2013 Susan created the Purple Toes Campaign, Smiles for Val, with the ALCF to spread awareness about the facts and statistics of lung cancer-long stigmatized as a “smoker’s disease” –by sharing her friend Val’s journey.  This project was particularly important because Val was a non-smoker with Stage 4 lung cancer.  After her diagnosis, Val’s husband wanted to lift her spirits. So he took her for a pedicure. As Val was getting her toes painted in her favorite color – purple, her husband thought he might get a smile out of Val if he painted his nails purple too. It worked! A simple request from her husband resulted in friends sending Val photos of their own purple toes.

Susan’s objective was to build on that simple gesture and make it bigger.

This campaign, though it may have started small, reached tens of thousands of people worldwide, raising more than $15,000 for research, patient programs/services, and increasing awareness of ALCF’s efforts to support patients, families and caregivers.

The campaign was simple: Those who donated $25 or more received a bottle of OPI Purple with a Purpose nail lacquer and a customized nail file branded with purple toes photos. Then they painted their toes with the purple polish and posted a photo of their purple toes for Val on social media.

Susan did all the legwork for the campaign, working with OPI to donate the polish, while she donated the nail files, created the artwork with the campaign information, and created the polish kit to send to donors. The cost to ALCF was minimal and the returns immeasurable. “One cannot measure the joy this campaign brings to patient lives and awareness for the disease,” explains Addario. “The symbolic nail file brings lung cancer awareness, in itself, to the entire community. In terms of actual dollars, the campaign has raised more than $15,000 to date! In terms of exposure, it has surpassed our hopes and expectations..”

Purples Toes Campaign Has Legs

“ALCF received thousands of photos from people who want to help—honoring people lost as well as people still fighting,” explains Susan. “The Purple Toes Campaign is Val’s legacy.”

The campaign received local, national, and international coverage through both traditional and social media. Susan shares, “We took full advantage of social media, and our hashtag, #PurpleToes, started to trend on Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, and Pinterest.” She wrote two posts featured on BlogHer and arranged for NBC Bay Area Proud to air the story, which was picked up by CNN, Huffington Post, and numerous regional and international sites.”

Adds Addario, “We have embraced the Purple Toes Campaign beyond the initial program. It was the correct campaign to invest in.” ALCF also featured the campaign at its 2013 Gala Program, offering Purple Toes Pedicure Parties as a silent auction item. Beyond ALCF, the Purple Toes Campaign connected with people across the country, who started throwing Purple Toes parties of their own.

For her work on this campaign, Susan received a PPAI Bronze Pyramid Award from the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), which recognizes excellence in promotional marketing and is considered one of the highest industry honors.

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