Some Strings Attached

Even those of us whose stock-in-trade is persuasion and influence can baulk at the prospect of tackling the big issues of our time.

World hunger, the poor who are always with us, the hand to mouth existence of so many in the developing countries – these threaten to engulf the efforts of any one person to make a difference.

So when the time came for marketing veteran Cartan Finegan to put his affairs in order, he thought long and hard about what his contribution to the world might be. His own experience promoting Irish dairy products into 36 world markets (including the introduction of Kerrygold into London) and launching DART, Expressway, Fasttrack and CIE Tours had taught him something of the power of marketing. But it was his volunteer work as an independent supervisor of elections in South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe that had opened his eyes to the value of bringing professional skills to assist the efforts of people in the developing countries to break the cycles of poverty and starvation.

Reasoning that his own children, like most of their generation, were well provided for, he set aside a portion of his estate to be divided amongst his grandchildren, with one condition: that on completing their education or apprenticeship, they would give six months of their professional skills to the poor in a developing country.

When those in his own circle learned what he had done and wanted to do the same, he wondered if others across Ireland might be encourage to follow his lead – and so the Gap Year Gift was born.

The Gap Year Gift is a simple model designed to enable a grandparent to inspire and reward the action of their grandchildren in tackling third world poverty and disadvantage. It sets out the practical steps for someone who wishes to follow Cartan’s example and make similar provision for their own grandchildren.

Once Cartan had realised the potential impact of his idea, the marketer in him got to work. He enlisted the help of business colleagues in Dublin and London to carry out focus groups, create a brand, design a logo and build a website. Deciding from an early stage to keep things as simple as possible, and to enable the idea to drive communications, Cartan invited Gerard Tannam of Islandbridge Brand Development (who he’d worked with previously on the Fly The Flag road safety campaign) and Paul Hurley of Marketbuild (who had first-hand experience of the real world where Gap Year Gift hopes to make a difference thanks to his volunteer work with the Niall Mellon Township Challenge in 2005) to work with him to bring the model to market.

The three determined to make Gap Year Gift as a self-sufficient as possible so that the challenge would become one of spreading the word rather than maintaining an organisation and creating administrative mouths to feed. On the basis that there are an estimated 30,000+ millionaires living in Ireland, they targeted those who are likely to be planning their estate and making a will and decided to piggyback on the efforts of organisations already working with these groups.

Since launching Gap Year Gift through its own website earlier in the year, the team has focused its efforts on securing distribution of the initiative through inserts and editorial in senior citizen newsletters and magazines and news coverage on local radio.

They are now turning to those who offer even greater reach into the Irish market (yes, dear reader, that’s you). In order to harness the formidable powers of persuasion over purchase, Gap Year Gift challenges marketers across Ireland to suggest other routes to market for the initiative that match or better the economy and efficiencies of their own efforts to date.