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How St. Jude is future-proofing their business

1. Transform the direct response model for a digital world

Historically, St. Jude has raised a lot of money through mail, live events, and direct-response television, with viewers donating directly by calling a toll-free number or visiting the website. With thousands of in-person events canceled this year and more people now watching video-on-demand, the brand has started applying this same direct-response marketing approach to digital channels through video and Search.

For example, St. Jude revamped the “telethon” by using YouTube live streams, partnering with creators like The Game Theorists to raise more than $3 million on Giving Tuesday, doubling viewership, and tripling donations year over year — an approach that earned the team a Shorty Award. St. Jude plans to continue hosting live streams, partnering with creators, artists, and other corporate brands. It has also hosted a concert series and Q&As with creators and up-and-coming artists to engage with donors.

“There’s not a tool in the tool kit we don’t use,” explains Emily Callahan, chief marketing and experience officer at ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “We use traditional marketing approaches to reach people, and we also try to stay abreast of trends and leverage all the new channels out there.”

2. Use machine learning to find new audiences likely to convert

For St. Jude, sharing patient stories continues to be the most effective way to communicate its message. The brand has found that emotionally immersive long-form stories have half the cost per acquisition than other video content. St. Jude wanted to continually reach new audiences with that emotional content and encourage people to take action. To complement its research and historical donor data, St. Jude leveraged machine learning as a tool to serve its ads to a broader audience and find the YouTube and Google Search users most likely to donate.

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