For a hard-working group of IMS associates and other dedicated teams at Omnicom Agency Partners and Omnicom Health Group, the nation’s flag has taken on new colors this year. The pandemic continues to strain our front-line workers, many of whom are the friends and family of the Group’s workforce. To show their commitment and support to these workers, they created the #UniteInGratitude campaign, complete with a front-line worker-inspired set of American flag colors.

Omnicom-owned IMS was eager to dive into this timely effort to bolster those who support our community’s health and wellness during COVID-19 because we knew the merchandising details would matter to the success of the campaign.

What Is the #UniteInGratitude Campaign?

A collaborative effort by IMS associates, Omnicom Agency Partners, Omnicom Health Group, and Corporate donors, the #UniteInGratitude campaign showcases what can be done with merchandising and fulfillment when everyone brings their best to help others. The merchandising expertise of IMS paired with the design know-how and ad networks of the Omnicom groups made for a perfect pairing, and all teams brought key talent to the table to see their vision come to life.

The Gratitude Flag

Presented as an easy-to-use online shopping site, UniteInGratitude.com offers T-shirts and other branded swag for sale to consumers, healthcare teams and anyone else who wants to show their support for front-line workers. Each item features a beautifully designed American flag colorized with the three commemorative colors of #UniteInGratitude. Surgical green, N95 white and hospital blue replace the traditional “red, white and blue” to create a timely tribute to those dedicating hours a day in the fight against the coronavirus.

In addition to the T-shirts, a 3-foot-by-5-foot “Gratitude Flag” is available for purchase, featuring the three signature colors of the campaign and designed by Annin Flagmakers. The flags, along with all the other items on the site, are made in and shipped from the U.S. Buyers can expect timely shipments and easy reorders as they buy for themselves or for gifts.

Continued press for the campaign will be key to helping spread the word. Dennis Quaid has lent his voice to the broadcast ads, and IMS will be continuing to fine-tune the social sharing aspects of the website so that those who purchase can easily let friends and family know. This cross-agency project is using the #UniteInGratitude hashtag for additional social reach.

Who Benefits From the Purchases?

Proceeds go directly to CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit that aims to provide support for healthcare workers and communities affected by COVID-19. As these workers often experience burnout, fatigue and lack of access to self-care, the Foundation’s support can help fill in gaps where needed in hard-hit communities. Healthcare workers have also been sickened by the virus, with more than 60,000 U.S. healthcare workers infected to date, and numbers showing that up to 300 have lost their lives to the disease.

The CDC Foundation, as the only “sole entity created by Congress to mobilize philanthropic and private-sector resources to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s critical health protection work,” will have more work to do. This campaign helps free up valuable funds for continuing their important mission this year and beyond.

How Has IMS Been Involved?

IMS and our associates have donated significant time and resources to help bring this campaign to life, using associates’ skills and talents to set up the website, select merchandise, and fulfill orders. Picking what to sell was a careful part of the plan, as the teams wanted to focus on beautiful, curated products that were made here in the USA and that could ship easily to customers. In the end, they chose vendors from the wide IMS supplier network that created high-quality items. Even with limited USA-based options, the teams found union-made supplier items and American-made apparel that were a natural fit.

Jeff Fuerst, Chief Logistics Officer, shares more about what it took to bring the plan to life, including the testing of a new UMS mail service, which allows for lower package minimums and provides competitive rates over traditional UPS shipping costs.

“For the fulfillment process, orders are placed on the B2C website, where they then go to the warehouse via JDE. Inventory is tracked and sent from that, and orders ship the next day — assuming inventory is smaller packages. “It’s not much different than what we already do,” he explains. “It wasn’t anything difficult to do, because we fulfilled orders as they came. But, at first, we did not know what to expect in terms of inventory.”

Of course, the success of the project depended on a functioning website, something that came together in record time. Employees gave countless hours to coordinate with partner teams from the design stage to launch and continue to give their best as they fulfill orders through the end of the campaign this Fall or later.

Why Collaboration Is Key

It’s true that working together yields better results than going in alone, and the #UniteInGratitude campaign brings that sentiment to life. With so many details to iron out, from testing new mailing services to the flag design, there was an incredible amount of teamwork involved in getting the site launched in such a short timespan. The project demonstrates what’s possible when groups are passionate about serving communities and have the communication skills needed for cross-agency collaboration. With the #UniteInGratitude campaign well underway, much has been learned and future partnerships made possible.

Positivity played a vital role in branding and execution. While there were plenty of opportunities to focus on the negativity of COVID-19 and the struggle of front-line workers, #UniteInGratitude aimed to look at the positive aspects of the branding message. This positivity shone through in how the teams did their work, as well.

At the end of the project, one theme resonated above the others: collaboration. With this one website and merchandising effort, many will be helped, and it couldn’t have been done without the volunteer work and team-first attitude of a diverse group of professionals.

Mark Lenox, Executive Account Director, shares a reminder of why it all happened in the first place. “Doing good work for a good cause cannot be underemphasized,” he says. Not only does he hope first responders will see a benefit from the program, but he also looks forward to creating public awareness about what first responders and the CDC is doing.

“It’s a positive community outcome,” he adds. As always, that’s what drives IMS.

Article Author: Jeff Fuerst

Jeff Fuerst is the Chief Logistics Officer at IMS. Jeff has spent over 30 years working in executive Logistics roles with Quaker Oats, PepsiCo, ConAgra Foods and Sears Holdings prior to joining IMS five years ago.

Article Author: Mark Lenox

Mark currently directs the Creative division of IMS, developing solutions for many Fortune 50 clients. He has over twenty years of brand strategy, design, and product development expertise in start-up through global Fortune 500 companies. Mark is skilled in marketing, merchandising, business planning, commercialization and, sales through e-commerce, specialty, mass, and home-shopping channels.