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Make-a-Wish “Hope is Medicine”

Make-a-Wish “Hope is Medicine”


About this initiative

At best Make-A-Wish is simply misunderstood, at worst it’s rejected by parents who have a sick child because they feel it signals they are giving in to their child’s disease. But 89% of healthcare professionals agree a wish can influence physiological health and 74% of all parents that participated in Make-A-Wish observed that the wish marked a turning point in their child’s response to treatment. Overcoming misperceptions and driving participation fuels hope for children, and ultimately can impact positive outcomes. This campaign, led by gyro, was effective at changing perceptions among parents and impacted hundreds of children with life-threatening illnesses.

The positive physiological effects of hope are becoming more recognized every day.  Research shows that during the course of illness, belief and expectation – two mental states associated with hope—have an impact on the nervous system which, in turn, sets off a chain reaction that makes improvement and recovery more likely. No organization is in a better position to help a child with a critical illness take advantage of this emerging science than Make-A-Wish. By fuelling hope, Make-A-Wish gives children and families a moment of control over their disease and can play an important role in positive long-term outcomes.  These insights let to the big strategic idea for this campaign which was to drive a perceptual shift for Make-A-Wish from “a final wish” to “fuelling hope”.


The answer didn’t come from a segmentation study or big data analysis, the insight emerged by talking to parents of children with a critical illness that had a wish granted by Make-a-Wish. They discussed how wish anticipation gave their child something to dream of, and their family something positive to plan for. A moment in time away from the stress of the disease. It gave them, hope.  We matched this with emerging research demonstrating the proven physiological impact of hope. Doctors provided overwhelming feedback about physical improvements in their patients who take advantage of the hope a wish can help provide critically ill children.  With this as a backdrop, the creative message was designed to trigger a re-evaluation of Make-A-Wish among parents of sick children, and ultimately change misperceptions.  Rather than the last wish many parents considered it to be, Make-A-Wish was repositioned as a lasting wish that fuels hope. The “Hope Is Medicine” campaign communicated this new messaging, framing it as ‘medicine’ in a child’s treatment plan. Visually, we brought to life some of the most popular wishes as doses of hope delivered inside traditional medical formats like medicine bottles and IV bags.

To get our new message in front of our key targets we geo-targeted seven leading children’s hospitals in Illinois with our digital message. We messaged mobile devices with 5+ visits in a month reasoning these were likely close family members visiting a sick child or healthcare professionals working in the hospital. Mobile is the format of choice in hospital and waiting rooms. Additionally, we utilized outdoor boards on routes to our hospital locations, and bus shelters near our seven medical facilities. We placed posters inside hospitals and developed ‘Welcome Kits” for Doctors and Nurses to give to patients. Finally, we held a broader awareness building event featuring characters from the campaign at Pioneer Plaza (across from the Wrigley Building) to help build understanding among the general public with in-person contact, and more importantly generate PR.

After the campaign was launched, Make-A-Wish tracked the highest number of referrals in 10 years.  In addition the ‘Hope Is Medicine’ campaign increased overall referrals by 9% in Q1/Q2 2018 nearly doubling the target of 5% (Make-A-Wish Referral Funnel Dashboard). Furthermore, referrals from our important Parent target increased 19% in Q1/Q2 2018 significantly exceeding our target of 10% (Make-A-Wish Referral Funnel Dashboard).