Marketers, Cynics, and the #ALSIceBucketChallenge

By Julie Hopkins | August 19, 2014 | 2 Comments

Interesting times on social media these days.  The #ALSIceBucketChallenge has taken much of the social media world by storm, but not without generating blowback from critics and cynics. And some of them…interestingly….are marketers.  Why, marketers? You know that there is some rare air being achieved here. These are not your competitors. Your brand…your client…will not lose market share to ALS. Why then, the cynicism, from you?

-          You, dear marketers, know how hard it is to get something to “go viral”. Most of you have been trying it. Repeatedly. For years. Intentionally and accidentally. In fact, from time to time you’ve done your own seeding of your content in hopes that it “organically” took off. I know your secrets. And I know you’d KILL for two million folks in social media to create minute-long videos in your honor, featuring your hashtag prominently.

-          You’re fully aware of the benefits of awareness. Because on more than one occasion, you’ve cited that as your primary success metric. I’ve seen your campaign wrapups…when you cite impact, you cite reach. You know there’s something to it, even in the absence of ROI metrics. Why mock it now?

-          You know the kind of budget that usually goes with achieving this kind of reach.

-          You would give your left arm for one campaign – ONE – that delivered performance of 12-15x returns, year-over-year. Last August you sold 1000 cars, this August, for no marketing spend, you sold 15,000 cars. Last August you moved 500,000 bottles of shampoo, this August you moved 7,500,000. Tell me you wouldn’t like those metrics in your year-end review.

-          Let’s pretend that marketers had ANY hand in this at all (which they didn’t). Let’s go in our way back machines and pretend that you were in the conference room when someone said, “I know! We’re going to tell people to take a video of themselves dumping ice water on their heads, and then when they’re done, we’re going to tell them to challenge their friends to do the same, all within 24 hours.” You and your team would have killed it. Why? No one would have ever been able to produce data saying that what the average social media user is really dying to do – regardless of geography, gender, age demo, financial situation, level of celebrity achieved – is dump buckets of ice water on their heads. And as a result, in the absence of this insight, it would have sounded so rediculous, that YOU WOULD HAVE KILLED THE IDEA.

I love this challenge. I am so so happy to see buckets of ice water replacing BuzzFeed content or quizzes. It does not benefit me at all to know which Disney couple my married friends represent. BUT, tell me they just donated to fight a nasty disease – one that rips into sufferers and their families – and I’ll stay engaged. I don’t believe that people always “just give,” in response to the most well-crafted campaigns,  or even if their friends tell them to (I’ve led a few fundraising campaigns in my time, and asking only goes so far). In a great, unintentional, serendipitous turn of events, the web became a giant g-rated, backyard, wet t-shirt contest for folks aged 8 to 88, and I’m loving it.

If you’re a marketer, instead of talking about how this could have been better, my call to action is for you to MAKE it better. You talk about amplification all the time – AMPLIFY THIS, then. As the saying goes, “be the change you wish to see in this world”. Add in a matching gift challenge. Raise the bar on the donation in your challenge. Be creative, and add into your engagement that which you felt was missing.

Bucket or don’t bucket, give or don’t give. But don’t complain about those who are doing something good, especially when it’s something you would have liked to have attributed to you.

2 Comments
  1. 20 August 2014 at 7:59 pm
    Tom Snow says:

    “If you’re a marketer, instead of talking about how this could have been better, my call to action is for you to MAKE it better.”

    I love this call to action. Make it better. One-up your friends. Better yet, use it to your company’s advantage as a marketer. Get your team pumped up, make a sweet video, engage your customers, and engage your competition! Take someone else’s marketing campaign in stride, and use it as free advertising with your company’s name, logo, tshirts, etc. plastered all over it. You have a chance, if you kill it, to make your own company’s video go viral and get views, engagement, and more.

    Shameless example: http://bit.ly/1mmPig4 :)

    • 20 August 2014 at 11:20 pm
      Julie Hopkins says:

      Tom,

      Your comment made me wonder…are you proud, or a little sheepish about your own company’s video (which I loved, by the way! I bet that earned you more internal goodwill than your last 3 happy hours combined, at a lower cost. Awesome!). Every company, celebrity, personality…they all have brand image at stake when they take the challenge. Saucony, for instance, did a running and ice dumping relay, which represents their effort to layer their brand onto the message (the make running shoes, after all).I’m OK with that, as long as don’t try to sell me on their shoes’ quick drying powers, and the stability provided by their insoles in the instance you experience personal shock. That, and if someone tries to sell me buckets in their challenge (“Take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge….with OUR buckets…complete with ergonomic handles that allow you to lift 4 gallons of ice and water without back strain!”).

      I wrote about the movie “Brewster’s Millions” last year, where Montgomery Brewster (played by Richard Pryor) had to spend $30million in 30 days and end up with nothing to show for it. Unfortunately, there’s no chance that a brand can engage in the challenge without some secondary effects – they’re all going to have “something” to show for it. Maybe we end up liking them more…thinking about them more…something. But that’s no reason to thow all this good by the wayside, is it? If we accept a little bit of “imperfection” in the “campaign,” don’t we also allow it to keep moving and doing great things to hopefully combat a terrible scenario?

      Thanks for reading and considering!

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