April is Autism Awareness month. If you didn’t know that it only means you don’t pay attention to social media.
Everything is blue, and there are puzzle pieces everywhere. I can’t scroll a full screen in my Facebook newsfeed without someone posting something telling me not to judge their child or to reach out and treat them with love and respect for the people they are.
I don’t have an awareness month, or a dedicated color. Do you?
There are months we know dedicated to raise awareness of different issues, mostly diseases looking for funds, education, and support for research and promotion, although the promotions of the branded “conditions” continue all year long.
We should all take a moment and see how their “movements” take hold and go viral.
These issues are very personal to those who identify with them and focus on vulnerable populations in their promotions. Typically these are parents of children suffering from diseases, living with disorders, or overcoming obstacles that historically have resulted in social stigmatization. Who wouldn’t support those?
The momentum is massive, and the viral exposure is what marketers dream about. And who in their right mind would stand up and say something about that?
The other side of the coin is over-exposure. It’s only the beginning of April and honestly, I don’t ever want to do a jigsaw puzzle again because I have been so overrun with viral content marketing that it makes me wonder if the promotion is counter-productive.
Two of the main messages of Autism (or by extension Spectrum Disorder) Awareness:
- It doesn’t define the person
At the risk of sounding cold and biased, the amount of repeatedly displaying and discussing the issue does lead some (me) to sometimes wonder if it does, in fact, define the individual or the caregiver.
- Those diagnosed with it should be treated with love, understanding, and compassion.
I wish everyone were treated with love, understanding, and compassion, but to specifically treat anyone that way, just because they have a stigmatized condition, is bigoted.
It is personal
I do have family and friends who deal with spectrum disorders on a daily basis. I adore them because of who they are, not because I see a meme, a puzzle piece, a color on a building. I don’t love them because they have this disorder, or in spite of it. I love them for who they are. I am amazed by them for what they do, just as I am amazed by their siblings, or other friends who accomplish amazing things in life, even the every day things in life (like say, not punching people in the throat when clearly it would appear to be warranted).
But there’s no month for showing restraint. There’s no ribbon color for working your ass off (unless you’re a genuine workaholic, then there probably is an ICD-9 code to cover that). There’s no game piece to signify support of survival for another day of “normal” struggles. And the Empire State Building has never changed it’s color in support of those of us with sore backs from hauling so much baggage around.
Awareness marketing is significant and can teach us. It can teach us about content marketing, viral marketing, cause marketing, and fundraising. It teaches us about messaging and direct response marketing, because most of us quickly sneak so many of the pieces into the recycle bin, placing the post cards or packages inside unwanted catalogs so they don’t appear on the top of the bin and expose us as unfeeling.
But we do throw them out. We do delete emails. We do hover over blocking messages as we did during the election season when the onslaught becomes too much.
Cause Marketing can turn into spam, too.