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I Never Knew This About “The Ice Bucket Challenge”

Remember the famous “Ice Bucket Challenge”?

It was the social media phenomenon of 2014 – where people nominated their friends to tip a bucket of ice water over their heads. Even celebrities like David Beckham got involved.

Well, call me ignorant, but I never knew at the time: this was a campaign to promote awareness around ALS, the debilitating disease suffered by Stephen Hawking.

And it seems I’m not alone.

Indeed, copywriting wizard Steve Harrison didn’t know the campaign’s meaning until 12 months after it went viral.

‘I saw a poster at the London Blackfriars railway station. The visual featured the face of a handsome, stoic looking man above the headline: Last summer I was the only person I knew who didn’t do the ice bucket challenge. Five months later I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.” – Michael 34’

–  How to Write Better Copy, by Steve Harrison

Harrison concluded: “The folks at the charity were outpaced by the speed at which the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral. Months later, they realised they’d missed out on much of the awareness and were simply playing catch-up.”

And it happens all too often.

A company hell-bent on ‘going viral’ finally gets their wish. It’s only when the campaign takes off, they realise it’s not moving in the direction they want. It’s like trying to steer a firework after it’s launched.

You’re much better off getting your strategy in place first.

Make sure you’re absolutely clear what you want your campaign to do.

That way, your ideas will be relevant to the thing you’re trying to promote. You will either demonstrate or dramatise the benefits of what you’re selling.

A much better viral campaign was Blendtech’s ‘Will it Blend?’

Watching things get shredded in a blender is exhilerating..

It’s the sort of thing you wished you could do when you were a child.

But the campaign does much more than entertain; it demonstrates the benefit of the product. “If this can blend an iPad, then it must be a bloody good blender,” the viewer thinks.

When I tell clients to fill out their marketing template, they often think I’m dilly-dallying.

“We know our customer.”

“We know our product.”

…”Just get on with selling the damn thing.”

I can sympathise with impatience.

However, it’s not until they start trying to get their thoughts on paper, they realise their head is full of weeds.

You can be so immersed in your business that it’s difficult to see how your product relates to peoples’ lives.

That’s what leads you down the hair-brained paths, going ‘viral’ with ice bucket challenges and the like.

When you get your prospect’s attention, you have to make it count.

Here’s where to begin.