Deconstructing Kony 2012: Three Lessons for Creative Superheroes

Being a creative professional is a lot like being a superhero. At least, that’s how I feel when I lie awake wondering how to apply my abilities to make a positive impact on my world.

It’s people like Jason Russell and his colleagues at Invisible Children that show me how it’s done. Invisible Children’s latest project, Kony 2012, is a bold campaign and film that promotes the capture of war criminal Joseph Kony. With 3.7 million views on Vimeo in the past two days alone, I’d say the project is already meeting its goals.

Three Lessons Kony 2012 Teaches Future Creative Superheroes

  1. Simplify the message. During the video, Russell gives his four-year-old son a G-Rated version of Kony’s crimes. This is brilliant, as it simplifies the message for the film audience. The boy’s genuine reactions also provide a mirror for the viewer’s emotions. Lesson: make sure a child can follow your ideas.
  2. Give shareable stories. Watch from 4:30 – 7:30 and report back to me if you didn’t fight tears. The film’s story is made even more shareable by the call to action: “watch and share.” At the time of my writing. #josephkony is trending on Twitter, worldwide. Lesson: use strong emotions to build compelling tales that deserve spreading.
  3. Connect like-minded people. Kony 2012 supporters are easily identified by the links and comments they post online. In the real world, they can tote official t-shirts, buttons and posters. Kony 2012 bracelets are being distributed in pairs along with instructions to give one to a friend. This all serves to create a strong community (which is nearing 1 million on Facebook).
    To add to this, Invisible Children has set a date for a worldwide Kony 2012 poster-plastering night. The event provides an organic opportunity for participants to bond over shared memories of guerrilla advocacy. Lesson: use common values and experiences to forge a community. Provide ways for them to recognize and engage each other (membership to a group, bumper stickers, etc).

My primary goal as a creative professional is to inspire and connect those around me. The Kony 2012 campaign reminds me that ideas can literally fly around the world, fight for good and change lives.


Over To You:

  1. Watch the Kony 2012 film and sign the petition
  2. Use the buttons below to share this post with would-be creative superheroes
  3. Sign up to receive my best updates: subscribe here


Take care,



PS. Jason Russel (and others) made Kony 2012. Jeremy Cowart spearheaded Help Portrait. Do you know any other initiatives that were founded by creative professionals?


Photographs courtesy of Invisible Children.



Update: While I respect the execution of the Kony 2012 campaign, I recommend doing research before donating to Invisible Children or any charity organization.

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  • Andreas

    Great post – thanks! Just wanted to let you know, that the link in “1. Watch the Kony 2012 film and sign the petition” is wrong. It says instead of

    Your readers will most likely figure it out, but I thought that you’d probably want to fix it :-)


    PS. BTW I saw the post about your excellent guerilla campaign in Canada. Feel free to send me a link if you do other guerilla marketing stuff as I’d might want to write about it on my blog (

    • Ami Sanyal

      Thanks Andreas =)
      Nice blog! I may be doing another guerilla marketing project in the near future—I’ll try to keep you in the loop. You can also subscribe to our mailing list to get our best posts delivered to your inbox.

  • Mike

    I feel the Invisible Children organization has bhrugot about an amazing amount of awareness throughout the United States and the world. It’s raised a lot of money but now it’s the government’s job to create and follow through with a plan to capture Kony. At the end of 2008, Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo launched a joint offensive against the LRA called Operation Lightning Thunder, with support from 17 U.S. military advisers. The operation failed because the LRA got advance warning of a bombing raid meant to kick off the campaign and bad weather stopped the operation. If the United States and other countries really wanted to stop Kony, they need to think of a better plan before risking more people’s lives and putting others in danger. The question is also up in the air whether to kill Kony or just to capture him. I believe it would do more to capture him so he could tell us all who he was working with and punish those people too. As we speak children are dying, and the LRA is splitting up making it even more difficult for us to find them, and some people are still arguing over what the Invisible Children organization is doing with the money. We need to stop planning and start doing.

  • Ami Sanyal

    Sounds like you know your stuff, Mike! Thanks for sharing.
    I personally find it hard to make a judgement on the issue: on one hand, military action is rarely the way to solve a problem (especially foreign military action). On the other hand, once western nations become aware of the terrible wrong-doings of people like Kony—how can they let it continue if it is in their power to put an end to it. Tricky tricky.

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