SAGE's new branding and the We Refuse to Be Invisible campaign at the Pride March
July 27, 2018

How we defied Trump with branding & advertising

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The battleground

Early in 2017, the Trump administration proposed the removal of LGBT elders from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, a survey that measures how well federally-funded aging programs like Meals on Wheels are reaching older adults.

This effort would effectively erase LGBT elders from critical data collection and decision-making, and there was a limited window of time to comment before the changes were final.

For SAGE—the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults—the threat demanded an urgent response.

Joining the resistance

SAGE had always focused on both advocacy and services, but their advocacy occurred largely behind the scenes; in describing their work, SAGE talked mainly about the services they offer.

Enter Siegelvision—the iconic branding firm, and SAGE’s partner in a new rebranding effort. To Siegelvision, this moment was the perfect opportunity to showcase SAGE’s new look and messaging: the threatened erasure created the perfect storm of circumstances for SAGE to both lead a resistance movement, and redefine the organization in the process.

“We Refuse to Be Invisible,” a statement that resonated early on, became both the rallying cry for this effort and the activist voice SAGE had been looking for.

Creating a movement

SAGE’s task was to fill the commenting period with as many voices as possible demanding that the question on sexual orientation be added back to the survey. Siegelvision dove into thinking about how best to galvanize and activate allies. A high-profile Midtown billboard was floated. But would the right people see it? Would it lead to action? This limited window of opportunity was too critical to leave those questions to chance.

A call with the team at Craft & Commerce—an outcomes-focused digital agency specializing in cause campaigns—yielded a different option: Bring “We Refuse To Be Invisible” to life in the form of short, inspiring social media content, and use paid social to rapidly test, optimize, and scale an online petition call-to-action.

The #WeRefuseToBeInvisible campaign was born.

The effects were immediate. Within days the goal for petition signatures had been reached and then surpassed. By the end of the commenting period, 10,000 allies had signed the petition, and, for greater impact, these digital petitions were printed and delivered to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Printed signatures ready for delivery to HHS

The social media campaign dovetailed with SAGE’s offline advocacy—including op-eds, lobbying, letter-writing parties, partner mobilization, and an impactful presence at Pride marches across the country. This widespread awareness and a critical mass of action was achieved within a relatively scrappy budget, and orchestrated by an organization whose advocacy had heretofore flown under the radar.

Outcome: An unlikely victory

The public outcry of the #WeRefuseToBeInvisible campaign was swift and fervent, and pushed the Trump administration to reverse course. The question on sexual orientation would remain.

For SAGE, the fight isn’t remotely over. LGBT elders are still fighting to be seen and better understood in the context of aging, and new threats to LGBT rights continue to arise. But thanks to a clarified brand voice and a well-run resistance campaign, there now exists a broader, more aware coalition to activate when the next challenge comes along, and a road-tested set of tactics to deploy for success.

Resistance checklist:

  1. Define and streamline the message.
  2. Run a simple campaign (KISS).
  3. Marry great creative with paid digital media for big impact.
  4. Find your most engaged supporters through persona building and testing.
  5. Optimize for results (ads and landing pages).
  6. Rally support of leadership and board.
  7. Be nimble to capitalize on the moment (right time, right place = perfect storm).
  8. Integrate digital with offline (lobbying and in real life).
Jordan Ruden
Jordan is a leading creative and technology specialist with a track record of helping brands, cause organizations and public agencies get results through digital marketing. With a wide range of successful efforts including rallying voter turnout for United Way LA, educating drivers for San Francisco MTA’s Vision Zero, growing community for New American Leaders, and creating recycling behavior change for the Carton Council, Jordan creates and executes digital strategies that help clients achieve their goals. Prior to founding Craft & Commerce, Jordan shaped social media strategy and content creation for businesses and nonprofits, and served as a key figure at startups including GOOD, Yahoo! and Vault. He serves on the Committee for Urban Entrepreneurship and frequently presents on social media trends and best practices. Jordan brings a unique blend of strategy, data analytics skills, storytelling and campaign operational insights to drive measurable, repeatable outcomes.
Frank Liu
Frank is the Chief Creative Director at Siegelvision. Siegelvision is a full-service brand consultancy focused on working with non-profits. We can give your organization a clear identity so people know who you are, what you do and why they should care. Before joining Siegelvision, Frank led the in-house design team at the Robin Hood Foundation.
Christina DaCosta
As the Director of Communications for SAGE, Christina DaCosta's mission is to bring the voices of LGBT elders from the margin to the mainstream. DaCosta is responsible for all of SAGE's media work, including web content, social media properties and earned media. In the past year she has positioned SAGE in the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC News, Associated Press, NPR and more. She also conducted two successful grassroots advocacy campaigns that garnered national attention (you can learn more about it in the session: 'Resistance That Works' at NTC). A SAGE staffer since 2008, Christina’s longevity puts her in a unique position of retaining a rich institutional memory, and seeing what works both in the short and long-term. Her passion for technology allows her to work towards SAGE’s vision for the future of LGBT people in exciting and innovative ways. DaCosta earned her Bachelor's of Arts from New York University, graduating summa cum laude with a major in Political Science and a minor in Philosophy. A former Brooklynite, she now lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband, rescue dog and toddler. She enjoys exploring the area, cooking with local produce, and renovating their 1910 stone home.