Digital & Social Media

Taking Steps to Protect Alzheimer’s Sufferers

Taking Steps to Protect Alzheimer’s Sufferers
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Campaign: In China, more than 600,000 individuals with Alzheimer’s disease disappear every year. Soargon, a shoe manufacturer, wanted to find a way to help the local community keep safe those suffering from this form of dementia.

The brand created Please Take Me Home, a geolocation-enabled shoe to help trace the whereabouts of missing patients.

Family members of Alzheimer’s sufferers register on the brand’s website to receive a free pair of shoes with a built-in GPS chip. The chip syncs with an app and allows caretakers to select a safe radius within which their loved one can travel.

At the same time, an SNS (Social Networking Service) community network was established, connecting local community members together. Users were encouraged to add their own friends and family members to the service using social media behemoth Weibo.

If a wearer ventures outside of the designated radius, an alert was sent to all members of the SNS network to help bring them home.

The agency behind the campaign, Cheil OpenTide, Beijing, reports that more than 5,000 nursing homes have come on board, encouraging family members to develop their community SNS network.

Contagious, FleishmanHillard’s Childs Weigh In

Contagious: It’s not the first time we’ve seen GPS technology being used to track people’s movements. NIVEA recently scooped a Cannes Lions for its bracelet app, which attached to a child’s wrist to track their whereabouts on the beach. Soargon’s shoes are similarly PR-worthy, showing a brand engaging in worthwhile CSR efforts.

However, the brand builds on the concept by building a community around the sufferers. This is especially useful given the cultural context. In recent years, many stories have come out of China detailing the reluctance of passers-by to stop and help strangers, particularly due to worries about financial repercussions. By creating a preactivated community of helpers looking out for the elderly, the brand is ensuring there’s a safe way for people to help those in need.

We couldn’t help but wonder if Soargon missed a trick. Though the shoes are useful for relatives, they don’t help to empower the sufferer. Samsung recently created an app that helps Alzheimer’s patients to remember the names of their loved ones, taking away the embarrassment of forgetting a name. Perhaps the shoes could have taken a leap out of the thinking Dominic Wilcox did on GPS-shoes, helping patients to find their own way home.

Nick Childs: There’s a lot the brand is trying to tackle here through their idea: The shoes need to be worn by a very specific population, then, in case the wearers go missing, a “preactivated community” (meaning people who have already downloaded an SNS app) can get involved to help trace those lost.

It’s a big lift.

But it’s also a useful creative idea coupled with a responsible campaign that connects data and wearable tech. A seeming twist on Nike+, what’s smart here is how the brand incorporates a CSR initiative into “hardware” they can easily distribute free to specific customers. And while Soargon may have missed a thing or two in the execution, it’s a brilliant idea to distribute in “beta,” then update and upgrade over time.

The bottom line is that the promise in this campaign is literally embedded in the footwear and where it may lead. What has begun as a way to bring elderly Alzheimer patients back home could very quickly lead to embedding the tech in more shoes, potentially even allowing parents to answer the age-old 10 o’clock news question. Wonder where a wandering teenager is? Just click to see her Supergas or his LeBrons, mapped in real time on your smartphone.

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About the author

This article was syndicated from Contagious Feed, an indispensable resource to the marketing communications industry focusing on competitive intelligence, best practices, new technology and consumer behavior. In addition to the flagship quarterly publication, app and Feed, Contagious has developed a consultancy and a series of world-class conferences, including its annual Most Contagious event.

Nick Childs is the executive creative director for FleishmanHillard, working out of the New York office. He has been with the company since 2011 after a career in advertising that included Grey and other high-profile agencies.