In conversation with

Sinéad Molloy

Head of Marketing at CoppaFeel!

CoppaFeel!'s Head of Marketing Sinéad Molloy

Introduction

Introduction

When you think of organisations that feel fun and light-hearted, non-profits probably won’t immediately spring to mind. Very often, non-profits conjure up the opposite image. Sinéad Molloy, Head of Marketing at breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel! CoppaFeel!, tells us why doing things differently might be the way forward.

Sinéad tells us about how playfulness is fundamental to them getting engagement (see: the brilliant monthly text reminders she writes), how CoppaFeel! navigates censorship of the female body online and the top 3 things to think about when putting together a marketing campaign.

And if you ever needed a ‘mixtape to knowing your boobs and pecs’, Sinéad’s shared some pretty major anthems with us too.

Question and Answer

CoppaFeel! has a playful attitude to an issue that’s serious and often feels scary to approach. How did you land on this light-hearted and positive tone of voice?

Our tone of voice can be traced back to the charity’s origins, when founder Kris was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer at 23. As Kris writes of CoppaFeel!’s inception, ‘we made light of a terrifying situation to ease the mood’. In that context, our positioning might be viewed as a coping mechanism before it was a strategic choice, but it worked. We write for people – and people often find humour in the darkest of places. By using ordinary language and a dash of levity we keep our message light and accessible to everyone.

If we get our words right, we can build a connection, generate support, influence behaviours and – at the very least – raise a smile. The key is to keep it fun without making cancer the punchline. A cancer diagnosis isn’t trivial. Cancer is big and scary and life-changing. Introducing a little playfulness affords us an opportunity to bypass the paralysing anxiety of ‘finding cancer’. It gives us a chance to remind young people that checking isn’t about looking for disease, it’s a quiet, radical act of getting to know their body.

The CoppaFeel! texts are so great! What’s the story behind them?

Thank you! The monthly text reminders are CoppaFeel!’s bread-and-butter and have been around for more than a decade now, unbelievably! We started out at festivals, and the reminders were dreamed up to give visitors to our (nipple-adorned) gazeboob a little something to remember us by, once the mud and glitter were a distant memory.

The idea is simple, give young people a nudge to check their boobs or pecs, and keep it fun. The reminders are sensationally silly, which makes writing the copy for them one of the best parts of my job. I’ve been doing so for more than seven years, and every time I sit down to write a new batch, I think ‘how many more times can we come up with a new way to say ‘check your boobs’?’ But the words always come in the end, normally after many truly terrible ideas, a lot of back and forth with the marketing team, and a very strict word-count. I find the restrictions helpful – being limited to very few words and no images forces clarity of thought and good self-editing. I think everyone should sign up to them – partly because they could save your life, partly for my own sense of validation.

Sinéad Molloy's CoppaFeel! Reminder texts

What are some brands you love, for taking heavy issues and turning them into something more uplifting?

I’d like to share some examples from the charity sector, because there can be a perception that non-profits have to make people feel sad to inspire their support, and there are a lot of organisations out there challenging that notion.

Firstly, I really rate the mental health charity, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), for their ability to take on the tough stuff and make it feel manageable. They have a clarity of voice that feels familiar, reassuring and – of course – calm.

In a similar vein, I love the work of the Ben Raemers foundation. Ben was a skater and a friend of my partner’s who died by suicide in 2019. Everyone who knew Ben says he was one of a kind: someone with a joyful, uninhibited approach to life. The foundation’s sMiLe series seems to embody Ben’s worldview. Their interviews with professional skateboarders tackle the topic of mental health with a lightness of touch that seeks to inspire a more positive and open conversation, and in doing so, takes the sting out of some really difficult stuff. I think charities like theirs are worth their weight in gold.

Tell us about your team culture and how you use that to inspire the work you do.

Our positioning boils down to having a really clear set of values, and using those to shape the choices we make. Being clear on our values aids better decision making, helps our team align on their approach, and makes creativity more democratic. Being innovative and coming up with new solutions is part of our culture – it’s not the sole prerogative of the marketing team, it belongs to everyone in every team at CoppaFeel!. Our CEO, Nat, has a quote about this which I love. She says that making mistakes is the privilege of the active – in other words, we need to experiment, make stuff, screw up and try again. It’s only by doing so that we’ll find the odd golden nugget that really cuts through the noise and has impact.

“We need to experiment, make stuff, screw up and try again. It’s only by doing so that we’ll find the odd golden nugget that really cuts through the noise and has impact.”

When you’re putting together a CoppaFeel! marketing campaign, what are the top 3 things you think about?

The audience, the message and the feeling we want to inspire.

For starters, CoppaFeel!’s target audience (every 18-24 year old in the UK) is a group as vast as it is diverse. The risk is that you generalise or patronise your audience. CoppaFeel!’s last campaign was all about knowing yourself, which was always going to fall flat if we didn’t know who we were speaking to. If I’m creating a new campaign, I want to work with young people in every stage of the development, from briefing through to storyboarding. For Know Yourself, our director Jess co-wrote each scene with our cast, so that each vignette was true to their experience of self-exploration. Of course, we need to be clear on our message – in this case, that breast cancer can affect anybody, whatever their age or gender – but most important of all is the feeling. Know Yourself was all about curiosity. It was about being a student of your own body, and so it felt warm, tactile and inquisitive.

Image of CoppaFeel! at Standon Calling Festival

Talking about female bodies, especially online, often tends to have negative backlash or get censored. Has CoppaFeel! had any of these kinds of experiences and what advice would you give to brands when navigating these kinds of experiences?

The media has a strange fascination with female bodies, and yet it perpetuates damaging stereotypes about breasts, often in insidious ways and through censorship. Here’s an example: in 2017 we made global headlines with the first TV ad to show a woman’s nipple on daytime TV. It was a huge win that helped to normalise being breast aware. But the same ad was age-restricted in cinemas for showing a mastectomy scar.

The lesson? The only thing more dangerous than a bare breast is an ‘imperfect’ breast. Unsurprisingly, it’s normally marginalised people who are disproportionately affected by censorship and stereotyping: people of colour, disabled people, LGBTIQ+ communities and those who are overweight or obese. Those groups also tend to be at a greater risk of late diagnosis of breast cancer. Being shamed for your body isn’t the only reason you might be diagnosed late (health inequalities are diverse and multi-factoral) but it is a key barrier to getting to know your body. our approach is to – constructively – call it out when we see it. We believe the media can be a force for good, and sometimes we have to speak up to help them do better. I’d advise others to do the same.

If CoppaFeel! was a playlist, what anthems would be on it?

It would be eclectic, a kind of mixtape to knowing your boobs and pecs. I’d start with the Divinyls’ I Touch Myself, followed by Getting to Know You, from the King and I, Bobby Vinton’s To Know You is To Love You, and Feeling Myself by Nicki Minaj & Beyoncé. Finally, for anybody who’d failed to get the message, I’d play Ice Cube’s Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself, as a less-than-subtle outro.

Sinéad Molloy's CoppaFeel! themed bookstack

The Storylist

Sinéad's Storylist

Books

  1. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamieson
  2. Sister Outsider by Audre Lourde
  3. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  4. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
  5. How To Glitter a Turd by Kris Hallenga

Magazines

  1. The New Yorker
  2. Granta Magazine
  3. NYT Cooking

Newsletters

  1. Maybe Baby by Hayley Nahman
  2. After School by Casey Lewis
  3. Innocent News

Podcasts

  1. Normal Gossip
  2. Forest 404
  3. The Moth

Websites

  1. It’s Nice That
  2. Penguin Books
  3. WePresent

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