British Heart Foundation aims to dispel ‘stereotypes’ around heart disease

The British Heart Foundation is hoping to deliver an “emotional punch” with a new marketing campaign that focuses on the devastation heart disease can wreak on friends and families. It says it is aiming to show that it is not just a disease that effects “older men”.

The “Heart disease is heartless” campaign, created by DLKW Lowe, will go live on TV this evening (24 August). It features a young boy sitting at his desk at school when his Dad turns up unexpectedly to say his final goodbye before having a heart attack. It features the strapline “Heart disease is heartless. It strikes without warning”.

The TV campaign is supported by two further online videos that show someone holding a Skype chat and videoing their dog in the garden. In both videos, one person dies unexpectedly of a heart attack.

Speaking to Marketing Week, the BHF’s director of marketing and engagement Carolan Davidge said the campaign is in response to research the charity undertook to find out people’s views of heart disease. She said most people see it as a disease of “a certain generation” but that the BHF wants to highlight that it is far more common than people think, with one in four people currently dying of the disease.

“People think of heart disease as being a disease you can prevent but also that it affects certain people – older men. The whole purpose here is to suggest that heart disease isn’t the ticked box people think it is. It can strike any one at any time from fit healthy adults to sports people to children,” she explained.

“People tend to fear heart disease less than cancer or Alzheimer’s but actually it can be an awful disease and it is unique in that it can take people away instantly. That is the emotion of it.”

Carolan Davidge, BHF’s marketing and engagement director

The BHF wants to position itself as the “solution to the problem”. She said while previously it has been seen as more of a lifestyle advice charity, typically running campaigns about quitting smoking or how to administer CPR, it now wants to be known for its research, which accounts for 80% of its charitable spend.

“Research is at the heart of our organisation’s structure and it is now at the heart of our brand strategy. People think heart disease is preventable. As with any disease you can reduce your risk through lifestyle change but it can sneak up on anyone,” she said.

Making the campaign real

Alongside the marketing campaign, the BHF will also be telling the real stories of people that have survived heart attacks or are living with heart disease to show that “there is hope for the future” and why research is so important.

It is also launching a “heart attack simulator” which it will promote via its own website and social media. It asks users to press a button and hold their phones to their chest to find out what a heart attack feels like.

But rather than having a physical experience, the phone will ring and explain the devastation of receiving a call to say a loved one has died of a heart attack.

“It is about making it real for people and getting people to engage with a cause and an issue that they don’t think about in their daily lives. We have to be disruptive in terms of media and message to make people sit up and think that heart disease is not ‘job done’, there is still a huge amount to do,” said Davidge.

The campaign is just the start of a long-term strategy for BHF to make people see heart disease in a more compelling way in order to drive fundraising and research.

“We are known as a brand that is in the lifestyle space and advise on how to reduce risk. We want to be a little more repositioned as a brand in the fundraising and research charity space,” Davidge concluded.

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