Controversy gets consumers talking about brands

The controversial iHobo app launched by youth homelessness charity Depaul, had a huge impact on the charity’s awareness and attracted thousands of new supporters, but it could have been more strategic, according to the charity’s head of donor care.


Speaking at Marketing Week Live! in London today (30 June), Tim Harford, head of donor care at the charity, says the controversial iHobo name was essential to the success of the app.

“It is a shocking name for a charity that has homeless people at its heart, we did worry if it was denigrating our own group but we needed to grab people’s attention, cause a reaction and challenge the labels put on homeless people. We needed that controversy to get conversations going and make it go viral,” he says.

Despite its successes in bringing in donations, new supporters and generating around £1.2m in media value, Harford was frank when talking about where the app fell down.

It did not give users that did not donate immediately the opportunity to provide their email addresses, which could have built a bigger database for an ongoing relationship.

Depaul has also launched a second version of the app which addresses these issues and adds additional interactive social media features and increases personalisation.

Harford also says that the charity did not think strategically enough and so the iHobo app wasn’t built into the charity’s long-term strategy.

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