CCS: Terrific Brand Marketing

Today, we’re stepping away from a website focus to take in a broader picture of brand marketing as a whole. The month of April recently came and went – Daffodil Month – for the Canadian Cancer Society and their biggest campaign drive.

Recently, I was asked to think about and summarize what brand I admire most. Little thought on this was required – it’s the Canadian Cancer Society, hands down, no debate.

The daffodil to me has always represented cancer. Cancer has been a big part of my life with both victories and defeat.  Mom door-knocked every April from the time I was in a stroller until I became an adult volunteer and then chair for multiple Relay for Life events for several years. I’ve lost eight family in the last 29 years.

Their primary tagline is, “Let’s Make Cancer History” ­– a brilliant double entendre.

Why this admiration?

Beyond the personal connections, it’s their gutsy brand messaging and secondary taglines paired with bold creative across all mediums. The brand is over 80 years old and continues to significantly impact the lives of millions of Canadians from research to patient and caregiver support programs.

Some of their attention-getting slogans over the years include:

  • Daffodil Days
  • Stand Up to Cancer
  • Slip. Slap. Slop.
  • Celebrate | Remember | Fightback
  • Join the Fight
  • I Fight for…
  • Cancer. It’s a word – not a sentence.
  • F*ck Cancer
  • Help Hope Bloom
  • Life is Bigger Than Cancer

These various taglines have been applied with rich, engaging creative across all forms of media from print, television and radio. Often they also bore specialized websites and social media channels linked to the campaign name, for example “”. The execution is always very powerful and frequently gut-wrenching. One of the most is the “Join the Fight” campaign from 2010 which still gives me chills and remains a favourite.


Fight! Is an award-winning video that is raw and emotional from a survivors points of view (survivors being both cancer patients as well as their families and caregivers).

This was further broken down into several 15-30 second on-air ads, run in kiosks and presentations and, 13-years later, continues to tour social media.

Think Before You Vape

A more recent example was a campaign against flavoured tobacco. Anchored in print, television and radio, the latter two formats had ads in a noise-breaker format – ten seconds of classic, cheesy elevator music that then gave way to a classic 1960s baritone voice-over pronounces, “Lung cancer. Now available in strawberry.”

Dedicated TV ads of surgeons removing strawberries from surgical patients in an operating theatre were also powerful. The print campaign was equally potent, adorning magazines, bus shelters and billboards. #ThinkBeforeYouVape


Another campaign that revolved around the sale of key chains called the “Thing-a-ma-Boob” in 2005 was also well executed and successful. It served to both educate women on the importance of early mammography versus breast self-examination and the detectable “lump” sizes.

The sale of these key chains then also helped to fund breast cancer research and support programs.

Thing a Ma Boob. Funny name. Serious Message.

I could go on, however I’ll leave it here and encourage readers to take a minute and check out some of the other incredible marketing and brand campaigns run by the Canadian Cancer Society over the past three decades.

Card showing the Thing A Ma Boob keychain and how it works (Breast Cancer Detection)

This story is supplemental to the “Brands We Admire” blog by Doug MacMillan from The Letter M Marketing – Guelph’s communications strategy and branding experts.