August 20, 2014
By now, your social media feeds are full of videos of your friends, your neighbors, and your favorite celebrities shrieking as they dump cold water over their heads. We’ve seen a lot of strange trends hit social media over the years – planking, Tebowing, #NotImpressed – and the ice bucket challenge is just as odd. But, there are four characteristics of this trend that put it above the rest. In fact, this ice bucket challenge has four important lessons for brands. So, marketeers, take note:
- Start with an interesting story. Videos of people dumping ice water on their heads will catch someone’s attention. A great story behind the video is what has everyone hooked. Pete Frates is young, he’s a former collegiate athlete, he has his whole life ahead of him. He could be one of us. He is suffering from a disease without a cure. Pete wanted to spread awareness of the deadly disease known as ALS. The rest is history. Method products stand out in the household cleaner aisle because of their beautiful bottle designs and the “natural” and “non-toxic” labels. And it’s the story that creates the customer loyalty. Founders Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry wanted a way to clean the dirt and germs of their house without bringing in toxic chemicals. This idea of non-toxic products to clean didn’t just stop there — everything from the product containers to the Method offices follows the rules of green and clean.
- Your brand’s activities should be inspired by, and emanate from, a higher ideal. What higher ideal than fighting a deadly and mysterious disease? The ice bucket challenge not only gives participants the chance to spread awareness about Lou Gehrig’s disease, but it also gives them an opportunity to pitch in and make a difference. TOMs shoes does the same thing with One for One. By purchasing a pair of shoes, consumers are also supporting someone in need.
- Your call to action should be engaging and easy, to have broad impact. Most people have an ice bucket, a smart-phone, and a social media account. It’s a fun, affordable, and you get to include your friends. Everyone from Ethyl Kennedy to Bill Gates to your neighbors’ kids has participated. And just when you thought the videos became old and boring, people got creative, and it became even more entertaining. Coca Cola’s Share a Coke campaign is also engaging and inclusive. We watched our social media feeds fill up with different names on those red cans all summer. And then in came some creative Diet Coke lovers and the YouTube videos went viral.
- You should be ready to welcome controversy. This is an opportunity to converse with, not at your consumers. Even an internet trend as simple as dumping cold water on your head will create controversy. Groups on all sides have spoken about a range of issues: the success, the waste of time, the negative effect, and even how the money will be spent. But, at the end of the day, a discussion has begun. $31M have been raised through the challenge to support a deadly disease and hundreds of thousands now know about ALS. HoneyMaid came out with “This is Wholesome” and it was met a lot of criticism. The ad, which featured modern day American families – a same-sex parents family, a tattooed rocker family, an interracial family – celebrated the wholesomeness of family. It opened up a discussion about same-sex couples. The brand chose to not ignore the negative feedback and joined in on the conversation with this ad.
The next time you are brainstorming a great marketing campaign, challenge your team to think outside the box (or the ice bucket). Even the craziest ideas can take a brand to a new level if they have a strong purpose, are engaging and easy, and spark conversation.