It’s the dream of every marketer: to create a product, a video, or an idea that “goes viral” and becomes instantly recognizable. Some claim the phenomenon is more art than science. According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 60% of B2C marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget this year. The most recent success story: the ALS ice bucket challenge. If you somehow haven’t seen it on your Facebook feed (or on Good Morning America or the Today show), here’s how the challenge works: People post videos of themselves dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness and donations for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease); they then challenge friends to dump water on themselves or donate $100 to the cause. The campaign is raising awareness and funds to fight a debilitating disease. It’s also a great case study for content marketers looking to capture the attention of their audiences. Here are three things this particular phenomenon can teach us (or at least remind us) about content marketing.
- It’s unique, simple, and just crazy enough Who doesn’t want to see their friends getting “tortured?” The ALS #icebucketchallenge feels like a good-natured clip from America’s Funniest Home Videos or a prank pulled on YouTube. But it’s done with the user’s consent, it is extremely entertaining to watch, and it has a great follow-up message.It’s also a new way of “going viral.” Instead of one piece of great content being shared over and over, each video is viral within that participant’s immediate circle, and the videos are linked by a simple, memorable hashtag. Perhaps the biggest lesson from this ice storm is that people like to interact with people—not organizations.
- It hits both ends of the sad-to-happy emotional spectrum Although ALS is nothing to laugh about, it’s hard getting people to share content when the air of a campaign is all doom and gloom. Positive content is more viral than negative content. The ALS #icebucketchallenge is a refreshing (no pun intended) reminder that people are just as likely to act when you make them laugh. And, in the end, when you’re freezing cold and drenching wet, you are still left with the warm feeling that you made a difference. Not a bad emotional mix for a 10-second video.
- The call to action is fun and free Although donations are encouraged, there is no part of this campaign that demands users buy or give up personal information to participate. The only thing it stipulates is “pour water over your head or donate.” It seems “just raising awareness” can be enough: The ALS Association reports a 1,000% spike in donations to the national office in the 10-day period ended Thursday, August 7—up from $14,500 (during the equivalent period a year earlier) to $160,000.
Virality is hard. But content marketers can look to examples like the ALS challenge to create and promote content that their audience will appreciate. The trick isn’t to copy or mimic a great campaign; it’s to learn from it and incorporate the lessons into future ideas.
The #icebucketchallenge is fun, it’s for a good cause, it has perfect timing, it doesn’t feel corporate, and it’s new. Let us know if you’ve taken the challenge yet and as always stay #TopRight!