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5 Key Marketing Ingredients That Led To ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Success

5 Key Marketing Ingredients That Led To ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Success

Photo from ALSA.org home page

Photo from ALSA.org home page

The ALS #IceBucketChallenge is a huge success.  A success in raising not only awareness, but some serious money to fight a very serious disease.  Sure, there are some people who just don’t get it and are quick to criticize the way some have completed their “challenge.”  But the one thing no one can deny is the effectiveness of this campaign.

So, what makes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge so effective?  I think it all comes down to these 5 key ingredients…

1. Engage & Empower Your Audience

Without a doubt, the most important thing the ALS Association did was engage and empower their audience.  Not only did they give people a chance to make a difference, they gave them a way to quickly and easily reach others to do the same through a “challenge.”  Combine this with the importance of the cause and other ingredients below then it becomes easy to understand why this campaign is such a success.

Think About This:
How can you give your customers the power to spread the message for you?  Maybe it’s a referral program.  Maybe it’s an online contest.  Whatever it is, your customers need to be armed with the knowledge and ability to act as brand advocates.  Make it easy to love your business and easy to tell others about it.

2. Predictable, Yet Suspenseful

People love things that are predictable.  It’s one of the core reasons that television shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy have withstood the test of time.  They follow the same formula episode after episode and it’s incredibly effective.  People know what to expect and there’s something to be said for that.  At the same time, there’s the suspense of wondering who will, how much money it will be and how the game will play out on any given night.  Suspense is a equally as effective as predictability and the reason people keep coming back for more.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge combines predictability with the feeling of suspense.  When you scroll through your newsfeed and see 10 different friends doing the challenge you already know few things.  You know they’re probably going to accept the challenge, you know they’re likely going to dump a bucket of ice water on their head and you know they’ll probably challenge others to do the same.  For the most part, the videos follow the same formula over and over…

Yet there’s still a great deal of suspense.  You want to see if the person will actually dump the bucket on their head, wonder how big it will be, and might even be curious who they’ll challenge next.  These are the reasons why if you’ve spent any time on social media over the last few weeks you’ve probably watched several of the ALS #icebucketchallenge videos.  Even though people know what is going to happen in the video, they still want to see how it all ends.

Think About This:
What can you add to your business’s online marketing plan that is predictable, yet keeps people coming back for more?  One great example of this is Moz’s (formerly SEO Moz) Whiteboard Friday.  Every Friday, you can expect to watch a video to see Rand Fishkin or another member of the Moz team explaining business search engine optimization strategies using a whiteboard and markers to illustrate key points.  Just as much as the key ingredients are the same week after week, the content changes just enough to keep people coming back for more.

I challenge you to think about a concept or series similar to Whiteboard Friday that allows your audience to quickly get a feel for your company and the services provided.

3. Key Point: There’s No Substitute for Good Old Fashioned Fun

The ice bucket challenge is raising a great deal of awareness for a very worthy cause and a lot of it just comes back to good old-fashioned fun.  There’s just something fun about dumping ice and water on your head.  There’s something fun about challenging others to see if they will do the same.   This is a big part of the reason so many kids and families are getting involved.  It’s a fun experience to share together that ultimately supports a very worthy cause.  At the end of the day, everyone wants to have fun and it’s even better when you feel great doing it.

Think About This:
What can you do to make your brand fun?  Is working with your company an enjoyable experience?   Maybe you can identify parts of your business process that may be perceived as “boring” by employees or customers.  Take a few moments to think about how you could make those areas fun.  It could make all the difference.

4. Clear Call To Action

Donate to ALS.  That is the call-to-action.   For the most part, the “rules” seem to be understood that if you accept the challenge you donation $10 to ALS and if you decline you donate $100 to ALS. Now, yes, there has been a lot of debate about whether or not you have to donate if you accept the challenge of dumping ice water on your hand, but most people still understand that a donation is what actually makes a difference.

Think About This:
Let’s bring this one back to your website.  If someone comes to your website, is it clear what you want them to do?  Sign up for an email campaign, fill out a quote request, download a free guide?  Maybe these are your top 3 objectives.  But, what if you picked just one and built your entire site around that one objective?  Let’s say you want to grow your list of subscribers.  As one marketer found out,  a homepage website redesign could mean a 300% increase in sign-ups.  With results like that, I’d say it’s worth giving it a try for at least a month.

5. Harness The Power of Video Marketing

Would a similar challenge that required writing a few sentences about why you donated to ALS and challenging others to do the same be as effective as making a video?  Maybe, but it’s not likely.  There are 2 reasons why video was the perfect medium for the #icebucketchallenge – videos are easy to make (ok, ok so you may have to find a bucket and some ice and get a little messy) and they’re easy to watch.

In a previous blog, I talked about the importance of using images and videos as part of your social marketing strategy.  Using video as part of this ALS cause marketing campaign was absolutely the right call.  The videos automatically play on Facebook, they’re easy to edit on Instagram, they’re a bigger part of Google Plus with its YouTube integration and they’re even getting more plays via Twitter.  While not every video is award-winning or even well planned, in many cases they’re still far more effective than words when it comes to getting people to take action.  And when it comes to making donations to ALS, people are taking action like never before.  As reported on 8/22/14, over $41 million has been donated to ALS in less than 1 month.

From the NY Times on 8/22/14:

“Donations to the A.L.S. Association, a Washington-based nonprofit that funds global research to find treatments and a cure for the disease, have surged since the challenge started trending in late July. The group said Thursday morning that it had received $41.8 million in donations from July 29 until Aug. 21.

More than 739,000 new donors have given money to the association. That’s more than double the $19.4 million in total contributions the association received during the year that ended Jan. 31, 2013, according to a filing with the Internal Revenue Service.”

Update: As of August 25th, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $79 million dollars!

Think About This:
Does your company have an online video marketing strategy?  Have you considered how much easier it might be to show your product work rather than try to explain it?  A marketing report near the end of 2013 showed that 1 in 2 consumers say YouTube videos have influenced a purchase decision.  Among other things that influence purchase decisions are blogs and social media sites.   So imagine if you combine it all by making video a core part of your social media marketing strategy.  It just makes sense.

I Challenge You…

I challenge you to think about what has made the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge such a social media marketing success.  I challenge you to consider how you can apply elements of that success to your online marketing strategy.  But most importantly, I challenge you to take a few minutes to learn more about ALS and make a donation if you haven’t already.

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