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Is #IceBucketChallenge for Your Business?

Many communicators are talking about the #IceBucketChallenge. Many brands are wondering if they can leverage it for their own PR and social media campaigns.

#IceBucketChallenge for PR

Of course, it can be as many celebrities, CEOs and executives are publicly doing it. It shows them in a more humane light doing something fun instead of buttoned up.

The real question is should it be something you participate in. I would argue probably not.

Let’s be clear, The Bucket Challenge benefits the ALS Association. Unless your company has a real tie to ALS — e.g. an executive/employee is suffering from ALS, or you are a sports organization like Major League Baseball, then you may want to think deeply before engaging in the #IceBucketChallenge.

You would be investing a lot of time in a cause marketing campaign or a challenge that doesn’t tie back to your brand in a natural way. Instead it would be better to engage in a cause marketing effort that can impact your brand. For example if you are a tech company, you may want to support STEM education. If you are a food company, feed the hungry, etcetera, etcetera.

This is a major issue with real-time marketing. Way too many brands sacrifice their messaging integrity to be a part of a trend that doesn’t relate to their business. One has to wonder what the short-term attention will get them in the long run.

Can you create your own challenge?

Pepsi and Coke - Real-time PR

Yes, businesses can create your own type of challenge. If you consider that Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race have built an entire industry around the physical challenge, then the Ice Bucket Challenge is simple. For those folks who are old enough, the Pepsi Challenge in the 70s and 80s was a non charitable much simpler one-on-one product competition that created some momentum.

Analyzing the Ice Bucket Challenge, its simplicity and relatively low pain factor are what make it such a spreadable phenomena. My former colleague Beth Kanter made a great point about the challenge coming as a feel good moment in a time when the news is just flat-out depressing.

Plus giving the challenge to your friends is extra incentive. I’ve heard several people lament this week that they had not been asked to do the Ice Bucket Challenge.

People like to do fun things with their friends. If the activity can benefit a charity, and people can get a little social media lift from it on their personal profiles, it’s even more likely to take off. In short, if it’s fun and chat worthy, people do it.

Will cause marketing help your challenge recipe?

Gravy - #IceBucketChallenge PR

Cause marketing helps but is not necessary for an online challenge. Instead, the challenge just needs to be really fun, and something that other people would talk about, and want to do. The charitable aspect makes it extra easy to share and more attractive to do.

Here are some tips to help guide you in engaging consumers in a similar campaign.

1) Make the activity quick and easy. Think about asking people for no more than a minute if at all possible.
2) The activity has to be fun, and benefit somebody in a clear way: helping a cause or a friend is obvious. Discovering a new food or something of the like is a stretch but achievable.
3) Part of being fun is not making the activity overtly marketing centric. The brand elements have to be ancillary not the primary aspect of the effort.
4) Create really strong catchy shareable handles for the challenge. IceBucket works a lot better than ALSBucket. Many people don’t know what ALS is, but the challenge may engage and educate them.

I think the most important thing about any kind of a challenge or effort to leverage real-time trends is to set reasonable expectations. The virility of a marketing campaign is often hit or miss. For every Bat Kid, Ice Bucket Challenge or Oreo Super Bowl ad you have millions of failures.

Build the best campaign you can that serves your brand and its audiences. Then measure how your core stakeholder groups respond. Everything else is gravy.

What do you think?

A former journalist, Geoff continues to write, and has authored four books. Most recently he published his first novel Exodus in 2013, co-authored Marketing in the Round, and wrote the social media primer Welcome to the Fifth Estate. He is also the president of Tenacity 5.

Image: rpavichSean Loyless, Glory Foods (Creative Commons)

About Geoff Livingston

Geoff is president and founder of Tenacity5 Media, a digital marketing agency that provides content marketing and social media services. A former journalist, Geoff continues to write, and has authored five books. Follow him @geoffliving.

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