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The March of Dimes: branding in the not-for-profit sector

Nita Paden (W.A. Franke College of Business, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA)
M. David Albritton (W.A. Franke College of Business, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA)
Jennie Mitchell (W.A. Franke College of Business, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA)
Douglas Staples (The March of Dimes, New York, New York, USA)

Publication date: 2 May 2017



This case involves the March of Dimes (MOD) Foundation, the “leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health.” MOD’s mission was to support medical research, organize volunteer workers, and provide community services and education to save babies’ lives ( The strategic issue in the case involves creating awareness of both the mission and services of MOD and the critical issue driving that mission – premature births. The organization must create a desire for various target markets to take action in response to the problem. The main protagonist is Doug Staples, Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications.

Research methodology

Data were collected via personal interviews with the primary protagonists, Doug Staples, and Mike Swenson of the Barkley agency. The MOD provided quantitative Gallup studies they commissioned, as well as documents unveiling the roll-out in the San Jose, CA region. The Barkley Agency provided qualitative data from a study which consisted of eight focus groups conducted in two markets and ten personal interviews. Secondary research was used to provide a support for industry and market data, to supplement organizational facts provided by the MOD, and to identify and link marketing theory to the situations provided in the case. The organization, facts and characters in this case were not disguised. MOD was consulted throughout the case development process.

Relevant courses and levels

This case study is recommended for marketing courses at the undergraduate level. It is most appropriate for marketing management, introductory marketing, or marketing strategy classes. Additionally, this case is a good fit for courses focused upon not-for-profit marketing issues.

Theoretical bases

The strongest opportunities to apply theory using this case relate to branding (see De Chernatony and Dall’Olmo Riley, 1998 for a content analysis of the brand literature). These theories include brand image and personality (Aaker, 1997; Belk, 1998; Grohmann, 2009), brand awareness (Aaker, 2002), brand involvement and customer loyalty (Brakus et al., 2009), brand engagement (Sprott et al., 2009), brand relationships (Breivik and Thorbjornsen, 2008), and brand equity (Aaker, 2002, 2008). Specifically, question 2 addresses brand personality, and questions 3 and 4 explore relationships with the brand such as the emotional power of the brand and brand association. Question 6 focuses on positioning strategy.



Disclaimer. This case is written solely for educational purposes and is not intended to represent successful or unsuccessful managerial decision making. The authors may have disguised names; financial, and other recognizable information to protect confidentiality.


Paden, N., Albritton, M.D., Mitchell, J. and Staples, D. (2017), "The March of Dimes: branding in the not-for-profit sector", , Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 377-413.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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