PR > PR: Sectors




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Why is this work relevant for PR?

Much of the lifesaving work pursued by the Bone Marrow Donor Center of the University Hospital Düsseldorf (KMSZ) is not funded by the federal government, federal states, or health insurance companies. Tasked with growing its database of potential stem cell donors, KMSZ turned to PR and earned media to raise awareness and spur donations, which require individuals to submit DNA samples. More specifically, the campaign needed an unexpected way to motivate the young demographic that statistically provides the most viable DNA matches for stem cell treatment, but who rarely donate.


Every day, 2 kids in Germany are diagnosed with blood cancer. Globally, over 100.000 cases are reported every year. Often a stem cell donation is their only chance for survival. The ongoing mission of the KMSZ is to secure the DNA matches that save lives. For some, the chances to find a viable match are as low as winning the lottery jackpot. Therefore, the KMSZ must continually recruit and maintain a large database of donor DNA which is shared nationally and internationally.

Young donors (18 - 30) are statistically the best candidates due to their better health and physical condition. These donors have as much as five times the likelihood of positive matches compared to other age segments. But this younger audience know they should help, but they are not taking enough action. We needed to find a way to make them want to help.

Describe the creative idea

The typical tool for DNA tests is a simple stick or swab. That’s where we saw a new way to lick the problem. By making the DNA test more playful, fun, and even delicious, we could attract young people who had never even considered a stem cell donation before.

Introducing Life Lolli: a heart shaped lollipop that provides a tasty way to collect your DNA, and an irresistible opportunity for the selfie-generation to share their good deed with the world.

Describe the PR strategy

The KMSZ has little in the way of a media budget. We needed a cost effective strategy to get Life Lolli on everyone’s lips. Focusing on Instagram’s young user base as our platform, we recruited a huge team of social media influencers to donate publicity, including popular German gamers, musicians, beauty vloggers, celebrities and sports stars. The free lollipop was ideal for social media sharing— posting a photo of the heart shaped lolli on their tongue would become a social media challenge, encouraging others to take the simple step to saving lives. We would partner with athletic clubs, retailer partnerships, and any company that wanted to encourage distribution among its employees. All communications would link to a dedicated Life Lolli website, answering questions about the initiative, raising awareness on the crucial lack of donors, and detailing the remarkable value of stem cells in blood cancer treatment.

Describe the PR execution

Timed to coincide with International Children’s Cancer Day 2019, we announced the creation of the Life Lolli; the tastiest DNA test in the world. Through both online and traditional media, we publicized the pressing need for a database of potential stem cell donors.

Our team of 100 prominent cultural influencers goes public with their own Life Lolli selfies, encouraging followers to do the same, launching the #lifelolli initiative. The colorful, feelgood story is picked up by traditional media.

The free Life Lolli, complete with a self-mailing pouch for easy submission, is made available online, at fitness studios, supermarkets, corner stores and through employers. Partnerships with big national sports clubs like the world’s famous soccer club Borussia Dortmund, help encourage distribution.

Communications link to our dedicated website, where visitors are encouraged to make contributions of any kind to support stem cell donations, including support for the Life Lolli initiative itself.

List the results

The innovative DNA test delivered unprecedented results. With zero cost — thanks to campaign donations — we helped KMSZ extend reach, awareness, and potentially lifesaving donations above and beyond previous initiatives. When we launched, Life Lolli exploded thanks to the charitable help of over 100 key German influencers including gamers, musicians, beauty vloggers, celebrities and sports stars. Germany’s world famous soccer club Borussia Dortmund even asked us to create a special yellow edition for their fans that was supported by the huge reach of their social channels and website.

• Social media influencers reach 86,5 million + users, spur 628.000+ interactions with a 97.9 positive campaign sentiment

• 120 major news stories generating 235 million + media impressions

• 19.9% of website visitors ordered a Life Lolli (150,000 monthly visits)

• 106 times more kit orders compared to average

• 680% increase in registrations compared to average

• New donators 11 years younger than norm (from 37 to 26 years)

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