Keeping it Cool: Health Care Marketing Lessons From The Ice Bucket Challenge

Ask anyone from your neighbor to your coworker to your children, and they will likely know about, or may have even participated in, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. This viral campaign increased ALS Association donations 25x compared to last summer. This wildly successful grassroots social marketing campaign left behind many cold and wet people, and, with that, some important takeaways to keep your next medical marketing campaign cool and successful. Let’s review what you can learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge.

#1: Simplicity

Keep your call to action to one sentence. The Ice Bucket Challenge call to action, or “rules”, were very simple: Dump a bucket of ice water on your head, or donate $100 to the ALS Foundation–then nominate three friends to do the same. The takeaway here is to communicate a clear call to action with as few steps as possible. The simpler the cue, the more likely someone is to engage in doing it.

#2: Shareability

Successful grassroots campaigns depend on shareability. Think of how your next campaign will motivate others to share, and how the impact of sharing snowballs quickly into an exponential increase in people seeing your message. With the Ice Bucket Challenge, once someone’s own challenge was complete, he/she would then nominate three others to record their own videos. In doing so, hundreds in this person’s network see the message, as it gets passed on to the next three. The effect of this is viral. The key is to engage early adopters and make sure they are motivated to participate and share with their networks.

#3: Coolness

Aside from being literally cold, the Ice Bucket Challenge was figuratively cool, too. It was fun! Make sure your next medical marketing campaign is fun for your participants, even with a more serious message behind it. The Ice Bucket Challenge also tagged on to trending “selfie” culture, but incorporated video. This was critical to its cool factor. Keep your campaign fresh and entertaining so your patients can’t resist participating in it.

#4: Urgency

Human nature loves urgency. If the clock is running, we must act fast! Create a limited timeframe for your campaign so people are aware that they must act quickly to participate. The Ice Bucket Challenge gave people just 24 hours to respond. This urgent message motivated people to participate quickly, and continue to spread the message to keep the campaign moving.

#5: Celeb Appeal

Like it or not, celebrities are influential. If a celebrity gets involved, it will instantly ramp up your campaign, sending it into another level of media appeal and exposure. If you can engage celebrities early, like with the Ice Bucket Challenge, your success will be significantly greater. Make a list of potential influencers that you want to engage for your next medical marketing campaign.

#6: Self-Generated Content

The Ice Bucket Challenge was so successful because it allowed participants to be creative with developing and sharing their own content. Successful campaigns encourage participants to develop simple, engaging content of their own. This will not only increase the chances that your campaign will go viral, but also help your organization interact with patients and the community at large.

#7: PR Plan

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a grassroots campaign, but it still was professional and closely managed. ALS had a designed spokesperson for the campaign. It was carefully thought out and planned. For your next medical marketing campaign, make sure you have a PR plan in place, and consider consulting with a PR firm who specializes in your industry. If your campaign needs to be as cool as the Ice Bucket Challenge, you’ll need a seasoned PR pro in your back pocket.

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