No one can deny the great success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign. Its success has even caught its creator, Pat Quinn, off guard. He states, “I couldn’t imagine it would be like this. It’s been unbelievable.” He’s right – it is now a worldwide social phenomenon.
Marketers and agencies across the globe are being asked by their bosses and clients, “Why can’t you do a campaign like that for us?” Of course, it is easy to know when a viral (or guerilla) campaign is actually going to work after the fact. But, it is quite difficult to know ahead of time whether something is going to take off, particularly when it depends on user participation to not only succeed, but to fuel the flame of it going viral.
We are often asked if these types of campaigns have any lessons for B2B technology marketers, who tend to target “serious” business people within a corporate setting. Am I really going to get a CFO to do this type of campaign in a work setting, in front of peers, or by challenging peers?
It is much harder of course to execute a campaign like this within a B2B setting, because people are paid to do a job, not to participate in selfies and promote themselves in the process. Nevertheless, there are some serious lessons here from the ALS Ice Bucket campaign which should not be ignored.
- First, when planning a campaign, particularly if it is viral, plan ahead on what you are going to do to get it started and make sure the flame continues. PR and corporate communications can play a vital role in supporting the initial efforts at having the campaign build some initial steam. You cannot necessarily create the snowball effect, but you can give the snowball a push at the beginning. Have a backup plan for how to get the campaign reinvigorated if it does not takeoff as initially planned.
- Second, remember that even in a corporate setting, everyone loves a challenge, a contest, or a chance at winning something. Ice Bucket challenge works because it puts people on the spot to do the right thing. They win simply by participating and getting to challenge another. The “I dare you” part of this campaign is what makes it a must do for the next person.
- Third, people are more likely to accept a challenge or incentive if it benefits others more than themselves. This seems counter-intuitive, but we have often found that a person is more happy to have $25 (or $50) given to their favorite charity than to receive it for themselves when they are asked to do something such as completing a survey. This is part of the ALS campaign genius – the end result is that it is being done for a charity not for oneself. People who participate can feel good about themselves.
In sum, what does this mean for B2B technology? Remember, you cannot control the outcome of a viral campaign, but you can try make it fun to increase chances of it taking off.
Tie it to something the individual within a company cares about. Challenge them to post themselves using your product in a selfie, but incent them to do so. Even better, ensure the incentive is for a charity they care about.
Keep it professional, but let customers run the show. Connect them to prospects through the campaign. It may not generate the notoriety of the recent Ice Bucket Challenge, but it may help put some new prospects in your pipeline and some new revenue towards your bottom line.