When it comes to receiving a colon cancer screening, it’s important to know you have options.

While a colonoscopy may be the industry standard, some people aren’t comfortable with being placed under anesthesia or the daylong fasting prep.

Fortunately, there are at-home options like FIT or Cologuard. If you’re of a certain age and risk type for colorectal cancer, these screenings can be critical to avoiding serious illness.

That’s why Atlantic Health System, a nonprofit provider organization based in New Jersey, is making sure patients are aware of these various screening methods throughout National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

The health system launched its Here’s the Bottom Line campaign to reframe the conversation around colorectal cancer, make it less stigmatizing and ensure everyone feels comfortable seeking medical attention and prioritizing their health.

And who’s the star of this marketing effort? Charlie the Colon, a cartoon organ, of course.

Introducing Charlie the Colon

Eric Steinberger is the chief marketing officer of Atlantic Health System and arrived at the organization two years after a lengthy marketing career in financial services and retail.

He told MM+M that oftentimes medical brands have leaned into seriousness as a formality for their marketing, whereas some levity and humor (i.e. Charlie the Colon), can create a fun and approachable campaign for disease awareness.

Steinberger said Here’s the Bottom Line — which itself is a pun about a person’s derrière — aims to lower people’s guard and encourage them to take action, with a focus on prevention and early detection. He said that for those intimidated by the prospect of preparing for a colonoscopy, there are tests they can take in lieu of doing nothing.

“There’s so much you can do with the jokes and all the other stuff. We didn’t want to go over the top but we’re trying to make it fun and more down to earth,” he said. 

Reimaging colon health

Atlantic Health System’s work is in line with a larger push by colon health advocates to make more people aware of a cancer that hundreds of thousands of people are diagnosed with every year.

Steinberger added that the health system has followed the lead of the American Cancer Society and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance to mainstream colorectal cancer, boost conversations among patients and make March synonymous with the disease.

He said a goal for his organization and other groups is to build brand equity around colorectal cancer to the point that the blue ribbon is akin to the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness. 

While the campaign is focused on men and women between the ages of 45 to 49, he also acknowledged that there is a lingering stigma surrounding colorectal cancer among the former group, which will take more marketing and education to dispel in the years to come.

Involving more cancer survivors is one way that he said awareness efforts can take root and have a meaningful impact on the discourse.

Like other marketing initiatives around various disease states, Steinberger said there are similar tactics and methods that the organization utilizes to get its message across, albeit with some tweaks where appropriate. 

One thing he said Atlantic Health System is not doing as part of this campaign is haranguing people to get screened. He said they will make the information widely available and encourage a dialogue with patients so they can seek out care when they feel comfortable doing so.

“This campaign is in the spirit of, ‘We’re here in the community to help you live healthier lives.’ We want to make patients aware of the things that they can do to live a healthier life,” he said.