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What can organisations, companies and event organisers learn from the ice bucket challenge?

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Fri, Sep 05, 2014

Business Buzz

by Candice Sealey

By now everyone would have heard of or even taken the ALS ice bucket challenge. It was the prime example of how social media could take something viral and create influence to impact cause marketing (marketing effort for social and other charitable causes) on a grand scale. It combined social media, philanthropy and celebrity marketing and the outcome is an excellent example of how social media can work when it is used effectively and for the good of others.{{more}}

There have been a reported 1.7 million videos posted and shared on Facebook relating to the challenge. Public figures and celebrities joined in and helped the responses to skyrocket. So what can your organisation/company learn from this challenge? How can you use this to create successful marketing & promotional campaigns?

Have a clear goal in mind – The objective of the challenge was to raise money by attracting new and potential donors. They succeeded and received over $40 million in donations from July 29th through August 21st compared to last year’s $2.1 million. They succeeded in their objective because it was clear. Therefore, as an example, if a campaign is focused on creating more awareness of chikungunya, define the goal of the campaign – is it just to make the public aware that chikungunya exists? Do you want them to take certain actions to stop the spread? Define exactly what you want, since this will inform the format of the campaign including the content of your advertising, the type of messaging and the channels you use to disseminate the information. The same applies for a campaign that is focused on the public disposing of garbage in bins, conserving water or energy or in the case of a bank, a campaign to have persons save more.

Have emotional and logical appeal – Never underestimate the value of emotion in any campaign. Peter Frates, the former Boston College baseball player who has ALS made the challenge personal and many of the videos that were shared demonstrated emotion. The challenge catered for everyone; for some it may have appeared to be a silly thing to do, but many didn’t feel right if they were nominated but yet didn’t do it or donate to the cause. Think about how you can share your company’s/organisation’s values and priorities in your campaign. By evoking emotion you’ll draw more people in and create a desire for them to take action e.g. if you want the public to adopt healthier eating habits and bring more awareness to the likes of diabetes, hypertension or even cancer, think about how you can use emotion in your campaign to get persons to take action or even change their eating habits.

Make it simple – At times, we overcomplicate things and leave our prospects and potential customers wondering what we want them to do or the advertising has several brand messages with no specific call to action. The challenge used chain letter techniques to involve more participants, it kept it simple, the rules and actions were simple: Accept the challenge, get drenched with ice or make a donation to ALS – there was nothing complicated or confusing.

Timing is everything – It started in the US during summer; I am sure we can all agree that if this challenge was done in winter that it wouldn’t have been so successful. Timing can have a significant impact on your campaign or event e.g when would be the best time to bring awareness to domestic violence against women? You may think anytime of the year is just as good but occasions such as Valentine’s, Int’l Women’s Day/month and Mother’s Day are prime time spots. If you think you offer a product/service that may not be at the forefront of people’s minds eg. teeth cleaning/ whitening, eye testing, think about how you can use seasonality to your advantage. We are currently facing an increased spread of chikungunya, a campaign is timely response – think about how you would use emotion in the campaign to get the desired results.

Involve public figures – When celebrities and sports figures took on the ALS ice bucket challenge it increased the exposure to their followers and helped it to spread. SVG has a plethora of successful sports figures, artistes, media personalities and other public figures, some of whom are passionate about certain causes or will even be good ambassadors for certain products – Use them! e.g. if there’s an issue with school drop outs/teenage pregnancy/reading/customer service, you may find that a campaign led by public figures that the audience identifies with, can be very successful. You may worry about cost, but consider the influence they would have and how that influence can translate into $$$ or increased exposure of your message once it’s coordinated well.

Hash tags and shareability – A tried and tested way to ensure campaign virality is to accompany it with simple, original hash tags. ALS’s #IceBucketChallenge is easy to remember and many challengers included it in their videos. Has your organisation/company begun using hash tags effectively?

It is important to note that a campaign goes beyond sending out a press release or having a radio or television interview. This is a good time to look at the factors/concepts that made this challenge so successful and apply them to the various organisations and causes in SVG as well as your company’s products and services. Be reminded that if your business, charity or organisation is planning a marketing campaign, your brand’s reputation will be the key to its success. You can protect your brand and take advantage of the spotlight with a proactive public relations strategy and a well-defined communications plan that precedes launching any marketing campaign.

Candice Sealey is founder of Ignite! full service marketing and public relations consultancy company offering tailored services to help businesses succeed. Create new sparks and get better results for your business.

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