Editor's Cut: To Ken Wincko and the team at PR Newswire…this is my apology and my public pseudo-bucket challenge.
In my defense, I have no defense. You guys threw down the worthy gauntlet, and I apparently just turned around and flew in the other direction. So here, in the Editor’s Note of Marketing Magnified, I make my public apology.
As a marketer, I watched the Ice Bucket Challenge in total wonder and awe. From out of nowhere, ALS was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. The national (if not global) conversation paused, just for a bit, to talk about a disease that is not often discussed at the dinner table, let alone the board table.
Millions of conversations, from those only 140 characters long to video compilations that were minutes long, took a cause and asked social to take it and pass it along. But along with the videos and the challenges came the complaints: How was a social phenomenon really impacting a cause? Wasn’t this really just narcissism at its worst?
For the ALS Association, by September, this experiment in social activism/narcissism raised $106 million from more than 3 million donors compared to $2.5 million in the same time period during the previous year. Facebook released information showing that some 2.4 million videos for the challenge were shared across the network at the height of the movement, and 28 million users were joining in conversations, liking posts or sharing information about the Ice Bucket Challenge. YouTube posted similar numbers, with an estimated 2.3 million challenge videos racing across the network.
Perhaps you were under a rock when all of this happened, so here are a couple of my favorite challenge videos:
- Dr. Dre took the challenge issued by Apple’s Tim Cook, proving you can keep it all in the family (and get 2 million-plus YouTube viewers).
- Bill Gates engineered the perfect pour for 20 million-plus YouTube viewers.
- Patrick Stewart put his ice to good use with 3.6 million views.
- Homer Simpson had some help from Bart and 23 million-plus views.
What the Ice Bucket Challenge proved is that social, when presented with a moment of authenticity, can transform a moment into a movement.
As a marketer, I was amazed by this phenomenon. It was an amazing reminder that social is a conversation, not a campaign platform. The Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t imagined in an office building or an agency boardroom. It was an authentic conversation.
Personally, I was challenged by a number of friends and colleagues. Sadly, most times the challenge was issued, I was in an airport or overseas. But I did donate multiple times…not because I felt some pressure to atone for my lack of public soaking, but because I enjoy giving to great organizations and am blessed to be able to give.
Perhaps this was the most important learning. While it shouldn’t take a social movement to remind me to give what I can, when I can, it was a nice reminder that I can make a difference, and it was a fun way for anyone and everyone to get involved in the conversation, even if a donation wasn’t in the cards.
So here is my attempt to keep the conversation rolling. Beyond the ice, the social stats and even the videos, there was a message: The bracing cold of an ice bucket should remind us to talk about and support what is important to us. For the movement, it was ALS, but for me, it is supporting the research of Parkinson’s disease. I myself am a passionate supporter of the Michael J. Fox Foundation and “took” the Ice Bucket Challenge to help find a cure for Parkinson’s.
So, to Ken and our friends @PRNewswire, I am sorry I didn’t accept quickly, but I happily accept the challenge by giving…and hopefully continuing the dialogue!