Red Cross

Facilitating Creativity & Refining Preparedness

Client: American Red Cross
Task: Increase engagement with the American Red Cross Chesapeake Region
Challenge: Increase the relevance of the American Red Cross by fostering a culture of preparedness
Team: Brian - Storyteller, Clark - Data fanatic, Manu - Marketing cleric, Mark - Passionate learner, Me - Creative catalyst, Molly - Engagement activist

Scott, the CEO of the American Red Cross (ARC) of the Chesapeake Region, had a dilemma; blood donations, volunteerism, and financial contributions were all waning.

He approached the Carey Business School with a challenge, develop a 3-to-5 year strategy to either:

  • Increase revenue by $1,000,000
  • Increase volunteerism
  • Increase sustained donations
Explaining the challenge at the Lego: Serious Play workshop

Explaining the challenge at the Lego: Serious Play workshop

Clarifying the Red Cross challenge at the Lego: Serious Play workshop

Clarifying the Red Cross challenge at the Lego: Serious Play workshop

UNDERSTANDING: What’s the real problem?

As a team, we set out to get a better understanding of how people perceive the American Red Cross. Terms like “I donated after the Katrina” or “I gave blood…once” or even “My friend Sara is a volunteer” came up a lot as we engaged employees, advocates, friends, family, colleagues, and even random strangers on the street. For as much good the American Red Cross does in the world, their mind share was largely dependent on preparing for or reacting to worst case scenarios. Waning blood donations, volunteerism, and financial contributions were merely symptoms of a larger barrier, the Red Cross lacked relevance in people’s everyday lives.

RESEARCH: Diving in

We set out to find a new way for the Red Cross to introduce itself. We took a fresh look at the organization itself. Their brand standards revealed the intent to interact with an uplifting, empowering, personal, and inviting tone. With our tone set, we looked at potential new directions we could pursue by building on the strengths of the organization.


  • What does the ARC do better than anyone else? The 2nd most recognized brand in the world.
  • What is the ARC most passionate about? Saving lives.
  • What are the ARC’s economic drivers? Donations, volunteers, and revenue from blood sales.


On the other side of the equation, we looked to finding out where the need existed in people’s everyday lives. One topic we kept encountering in our research was the notion of preparedness. Nobody would argue the need for preparedness, however the notion was generally defined by the potential for everything from hurricanes to volcano eruptions. Hardly an accessible topic.

After learning less than 44% of adults even owned a first-aid kit, much less a preparedness kit, we went back to talk to more people. Turns out, even if somebody owned a first-aid kit, many could barely name where they kept it or even what was inside (turns out it’s generally buried under the bathroom sink). There was no sense of connection, familiarity, or even awareness for something that could mean the difference between casualty and a minor inconvenience. We found opportunity in this space.

How might we increase the relevance of the American Red Cross by creating a culture of preparedness?

Normalizing conversations around preparedness meant expanding the definition. Preparedness needed to mean more than being ready for volcanoes. What if preparedness were accessible and personal? What if preparedness included being ready for everyday surprises in your life? What if being ready for life’s everyday surprises built confidence so the big surprises were less scary? What if preparedness was attractive enough to come out from under the bathroom sink?

What if the Red Cross was there for all your preparedness needs?

IDEATION: Put a billboard in their living room

The idea was to create a home accessory designed with intention and aesthetic value. Something every person could make their “just in case place.”

For Gloria, it’s the place to keep a spare car key. For Mike, the DIYer, it’s a place to keep extra bandages. For Angela, the college freshman, it’s the place to keep a spare Snickers bar. 

Such a product would provide peace of mind to the user while providing a new, more personal, and approachable way for the Red Cross to introduce itself…and get piece of mind. In short, we wanted to disguise an awareness campaign as a new product.

Prototyping models: Finances to products

With a mix of financial modeling and tools like Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas, we developed a modular system that allowed for personalization for the user and highest potential for margins. The system also created the opportunity for new market partnerships for manufacturing, licensing, and product offerings outside the Red Cross’ purview.


Prototyping the new system made for great learning opportunities. Exploring everything from shape to size to interaction to pricing structures, packaging, and even the buying experience helped drive each iteration.

Our final iteration was Dōm (Croatian for “home”). Each Dōm case can hold up to 16 individual Pods, or Preparedness on demand mods. 

Rather than assume to predict adoption rates, we proposed a pilot study for Scott in the Chesapeake Region. College students were moving out and creating their new homes from scratch, a perfect opportunity to introduce new products. Whats more, every college check-list included some sort of preparedness kit. The study would not only help in gathering data on refining the Dōm system itself, but also provide actual metrics on potential correlation between adoption and engagement with blood drives and volunteerism.

After our presentation, Scott submitted our business plan to the Red Cross’ corporate Health and Safety division. We are excited to continue the conversation and development surrounding Dōm.