An interesting branding story comes to us courtesy of a clumsy set of events related to Gilda’s Club, a unique community-based cancer support group, with locations across the U.S. and Canada. The actor Gene Wilder founded the idea, naming it in memory of his wife Gilda Radner, who died from cancer in 1989.
Through unscientific polling, the Gilda’s Club in Madison, Wisconsin determined that the name “Gilda” no longer meant anything to anyone born after 1990. This sort of conclusion would fly in the face of some other equally unscientific observations:
- Saturday Night Live continues to air, live and in reruns, to this day.
- Millenials spend 27 hours a day surfing YouTube, Netflix and Hulu with their smartphones, no doubt catching a few classic SNL bits among the dog-on-skateboard videos.
- Some Millenials have set foot inside a Gilda’s Club somewhere, in support of their own family members battling cancer.
Never mind, said the former Gilda’s Club of Madison. In order to be more relevant, it shall now be branded “Cancer Support Community Southwest Wisconsin.”
You can imagine the reaction, and you can read about it all over the blogosphere.
To us, this sordid story has some odd turns when viewed through the lens of branding.
It turns out that a few other Gilda’s Clubs have taken a similar step. Blame it on a 2009 merger. The mash-up of Gilda’s Club and The Wellness Community took on the new sexy name of “Cancer Support Community.” Nothing will kill a great brand like a merger of “equals.”
Individual chapters were then set free to pick the name they wanted, and with more than half already using the bland “Cancer Support Community” moniker, it was just a matter of time before former Gilda Club’s would begin to abandon Wilder’s beautiful gesture.
As well as abandon Radner’s memory.
The only way to stop this ugly trend is for someone to step in, unmerge the “real” Gilda’s Clubs, and give the organization a fresh start. It would be a fitting way to emphasize the “always” in “It’s Always Something.”
James Madison died in 1836. He never even had a chance to upload a YouTube video.