Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ice-Cold Marketing: 7 Things Flash Point Learned from the ALS #IceBucketChallenge

You’ve seen it dominate your social media news feeds. You probably even participated in it. By now, you might even be tired of seeing yet another news feed acquaintance douse themselves in the name of a good cause – correction, a great cause; $94.3 million in donations have flooded the ALS Association to raise money to fight Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

$94.3 million raised in less than three month’s time? 

Compare that to the $1.7 million raised during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 16)!  Every marketer wants the recipe to virality. The world may never know the secret sauce, but marketers can take a few ingredients from the #IceBucketChallenge social media phenomenon and apply them to future campaigns as this one goes down into history.

1. The Importance of Highly Shareable Content

There’s no doubt about it that online users like video content. The trick here is keeping it short.  An average Ice Bucket Challenge video is 1.23 minutes. Remember the Harlem Shake, the last viral video sensation to rock your news feeds? Those averaged 2.46 minutes. According to Google Trends, the rally-cry behind the former has proved to be more popular in terms of searches than the latter. Get this: the Challenge has generated 1 billion YouTube views - surpassing the Harlem Shakes that shook 2013. The message is clear: keep it interesting, keep it under three minutes.

2. The Benefit of Being Socially Conscious

It doesn’t take an analytics genius to see the difference between the two fads. In fact, the Ice Bucket Challenge is the first behemoth viral sensation with a clear-cut goal to raise money for a non-profit to reach this caliber. People want to show others that they are good. By creating a video that their friends will see, they can show off their penchant for good works. Plus it’s fun. A few friends of ours even have said that there’s a sense of accomplishment after completing the Challenge. There’s something in it for them. This creates a feeling of collectivity, which has driven many organizations to adopt similar strategies in the past (think Livestrong bracelets). Hop aboard the good works bandwagon; instant gratification ensues. 

3. The Value of an Effective CTA

There’s no doubt about the opening line of every ALS Ice Bucket video. When a user challenges someone else, the message is clear: dump freezing water on your head in 24 hours or donate $100. It gets better. Most users challenge 3 or more friends to pick up the bucket. The sharing rate suddenly becomes exponential. Even soaking wet participants donated money to ALS. That’s proof of a highly effective call to action if we’ve ever seen one. 

4. The Necessity for a Time Limit 

This one’s straightforward. As mentioned with the CTA, the Challenge is set for a 24-hour time limit. Either do it or donate.

5. The Power of Shock Value

This point leapfrogs off of the what’s-in-it-for-me point. ALS did not ask people to film an intimate interview or take footage of volunteers at a charity event. Although touching, there’s something more compelling and thrilling about seeing a fully clothed individual dump a bucket of water over their head to someone who might not be familiar with the organization. It’s even better when it’s your CEO. Let's talk about the medium. Ice-cold water is shocking, temporary, and makes the participant look ridiculous. It’s perfect.

6. The Advantage of Influencers 

How many celebrities did you see take on the Challenge? We saw everyone from Bill Gates and Britney Spears to entire NFL teams participate. We’ll come back to Bill in a second. Having influencers like celebrities hop on your cause is incredibly valuable. Their fan base will catch wind of your campaign at a much higher rate than if you went at it alone. No celebrities on hand? Bloggers, vloggers, and other agencies are great places to start sharing your content.

7. The Merit in Customization 

Back to Bill. We saw many Ice Bucketeers put their own spin on the Challenge. After watching a few videos, maybe you wanted to make yours even better. Mr. Gates did just that. He built a whole Rube Goldberg machine to dump the bucket. This is one example of many creative stabs at the Challenge. Why does this enhance your campaign? We’re in the 21st century of self-esteem where a user’s "likes" and video views measures their perceived popularity. People are more enticed to share something they’re proud of, personally invested in, and even competitive with. 

It’s not even over yet, and there isn’t a control group to compare it to, but there you have it - a quasi case study on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It's easy to see that the success of the Challenge is attributed to many moving parts and not one de-facto reason. A final question remains. How will you apply these 7 lessons learned from the Challenge to your social media marketing strategy? Leave a note in the comments below!