The Ice Bucket Challenge… Marketing Campaign Lessons for Marketeers

Ice-Bucket-Challenge1This morning I got up, went into the garden and tipped a freezing cold bucket of water over my head. And I’m not alone, it’s all the rage.

It’s inspired; get people to fill a bucket with iced water and chuck it over their head all in the name of charity!  It all sounds so simple and it has captured our imaginations, why didn’t we think of that?!  Admittedly charities are great at getting us to take part in hair brained activities to raise awareness and funds for their cause, but this one has captured the moment really well. So what can we learn from this phenomenon?

At this point last year ALS had raised $2.5M. Following the awareness raised and the donations on the back of the ice bucket challenge they have to date raised over $70M in 2014. A dream come true for the charity and a platform to do some real good.

It seems so simple but can we replicate it?

This viral campaign is a perfect storm of social media, celebrity and grassroots, cause, fun and emotional engagement on so many levels.

It’s one of those amazing ideas that everyone can get involved in and every marketing manager wishes they’d come up with. Often, a viral campaign like this evolves through a combination of luck and timing. There is however a number of lessons we can learn about creating great marketing campaigns.

The first thing we learn is that this campaign has a very clear cause. If a brand tried to do this in the blatant name of publicity it’s unlikely that it would work as well. It certainly wouldn’t have the global appeal and celebrities wouldn’t be quick to lend their name to it, but because it has a great cause at its core we can feel good about getting involved.

KISS…that old saying ‘keep it simple and stupid’. It’s a very easy thing to take part in. We don’t have to be brave (although it is cold!!) and walk up Himalayan Mountains or sit in baths of snakes to take on the challenge. Everyone can do it – everyone that the campaign is targeted at meaning those of us living in the Western world with access to fresh water, an understanding of the need to support medical research into human diseases and enough disposable income to make a donation.

Once completed we then challenge our friends to take part so there’s peer to peer pressure to get involved. Adding a little competitive edge and a smattering of guilt is powerful. If all your friends have taken part and you haven’t, you’ll feel like you’ve either missed out or ducked out.

We live in an age where social messages can be exposed quickly to large numbers of people, and of course one of the major factors for success is to build awareness and run your challenges using social media. To help it spread quicker make sure you set up a #hashtag that hasn’t been used before. Include video that can be shared as we all like to see others having a go. The beauty here is that the users are creating the video content to propagate the campaign. And make sure you listen to as much of the content as possible. Not only will it excite you and your teams with lots of people getting involved in your campaign, there may well be some bad press too. If you are listening you’ll be able to manage this and respond quickly and appropriately so that the campaign doesn’t lose its momentum.

Finally if you do hit on that combination of inspired idea plus luck and timing, and your campaign goes viral, make sure you can handle the coverage for what could potentially turn into months of activity.

If you’ve already taken part in the ice bucket challenge then well done, you’ve been part of a 2014 social phenomenon, and if you haven’t yet then get that ice freezing because it’ll be coming your way soon.