My Special Aflac Duck: Aflac and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals
For more than 23 years, Aflac has been devoted to the childhood cancer cause through its ongoing Aflac Childhood Cancer Campaign®, having donated $131 million toward pediatric cancer and in support of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Aflac wanted to evolve its childhood cancer efforts to make a direct, immediate impact on every child in America facing cancer, using their iconic brand mascot, the Aflac Duck. The company partnered with Sproutel and the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and pursued an 18-month user-centered, empathy-driven research and design process.
They determined that children with cancer want someone to hug and hold, a compassionate friend of their own. The research and design team worked with more than 85 child cancer patients, parents, medical professionals and other experts to identify functions that would provide the greatest value. This extensive process resulted in My Special Aflac Duck – an innovative and “smart” comforting robot companion for children who have cancer.
Through the partnership between Aflac and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, My Special Aflac Duck was shared with new and diverse audiences. CMN Hospitals Program Directors on the local level forged connections between Aflac and Child Life or Oncology departments at their local children’s hospitals.
Aflac had a presence at Children’s Hospital Week, CMN Hospitals’ national conference of hospital staff and strategic partners, and various Dance Marathon – including Dance Marathon Leadership Conference (800+ attendees) – to share My Special Aflac Duck. Social media collaboration also played a key role in the partnership as CMN Hospitals and Aflac both shared and promoted messages on their respective channels including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the CMN Hospitals website.
Because storytelling is essential to any nonprofit’s or campaign’s success, CMN Hospitals paired childhood cancer survivor, Chloe, one of its National Champions, with Aflac to promote their partnership and, in particular, My Special Aflac Duck. Chloe, a bright and outgoing 11-year old, quickly became the face of the Aflac + CMN Hospitals partnership. She even interviewed Aflac CEO, Dan Amos, and participated in the Aflac’s promotion of the Aflac Duck balloonicle (float) appearing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
As a result, Aflac’s corporate reputation, measured by Reputation Institute’s RepTrak® Pulse Score, moved from Average to Strong from Q1 to Q2 and continued to rise in Q3, which is attributed in part to the growing awareness and positive media coverage of My Special Aflac Duck. Additionally, For the first nine months of 2018, total new sales of Aflac U.S. increased 2.6%. In December, the My Special Aflac Duck was named by Time Magazine as one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2018.
My Special Aflac Duck has generated more than 2 billion media impressions in national, consumer, health, tech, business and local outlets worldwide – along with some quack-worthy placements. Dubbed “the smartest toy of all,” media were drawn to its simplicity and Aflac’s generosity. It also made a splash on social with positive engagement across channels – including the highest audience reach ever for a post on Aflac’s Corporate Facebook page.
Since its launch, My Special Aflac Duck has made a meaningful impact for families facing childhood cancer. Parent participants in the feasibility study stated:
• My child “held onto it ever since he got it”;
• “It helped distract her in this hospital setting, which … made us happy”; and
• “There’s nothing I disliked. I liked that she opened up to the duck, because she won’t open up to me as much as her mom, but it helped to encourage her to open up to the duck.”
Hundreds of My Special Aflac Ducks were pre-ordered by hospitals across the country before communications to hospitals about how to order even began. As of January 2019, more than 105 hospitals had registered and ordered more than 2,200 My Special Aflac Ducks, with more hospitals signing up every day.