May 2, 2017
"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility"
By Lance Lemen
"Marketers ruin everything" is often said by entrepreneur, marketer and generally-outspoken-personality Gary Vaynerchuck. (He also often says four-letter words so use headphones if you click the link!) His point is that every time something new and engaging is created, someone else will find a way to make money off it. A perfect example of this is when brands jump into trendy waters.
For this two-part blog post, we’ll look at brands’ participation and influence in internet trends. For marketers, these trends are an easy opportunity for free publicity or to show off a quirky brand personality. A lot of the time these attempts are poorly executed, with little thought or strategy. (Teaser for my next blog post!) However, for as annoying and capitalizing as marketers can be, take comfort in knowing that we sometimes do things for good.
Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Of course you do. If you’re reading this blog, you know how to use the internet so I’ll assume you, a friend or a family member dumped a bucket of ice water on your head. Everyone everywhere jumped on this trend, including your parents, celebrities, local municipalities and, of course, brands. Although I hate to give us marketers any credit, brands may have actually helped save future lives by participating in this trend. [Overly dramatic teaser to keep you reading.]
Marketers can help get more eyes on a viral activity like this ALS cause and in much less time. It’s going to take an impossible number of shares to get my personal ice bucket video up to 100k views, but a large brand could have that in a day. I’m sure Old Spice alone, with 1.6mm YouTube views and 26k Facebook Likes, generated more awareness and participation than the ALS Association ever expected when this icy trend began. And, as we all know, more eyeballs mean more donations. If you didn’t hear, the 17 million ice bucket videos led to $115 million in donations—helping fund a major breakthrough last summer. Thanks to those brands with large audiences for helping spread awareness about a valuable social cause.
Although the Mannequin Challenge feels like it’s been around for years, it actually started about six months ago. It probably feels that way because we’ve seen so many videos—good and bad. Although some brands jumped into the trend for no reason (sorry bro), there were also some great successes.
There were two standouts in my mind, one from Belgium's ALS Liga and another from Australia’s Parkinson's NSW. If you click on any links in this article, please make it those two. Both videos demonstrate the power of a disease over one’s body, while remaining true to this social media trend. I assume both nonprofits have very limited marketing budgets; creating these sharable (and eventually viral) videos was a great way to share their mission.
Let’s throw hashtags into this viral conversation as well. While it’s not the same trend as a Harlem Shake or Running Man Challenge, hashtags can quickly spread across social media. Most of the time hashtags are just another way for brands to reach for free impressions or try to highlight some product features. But, sometimes brands step up and create hashtag campaigns to help others. Last year, Disney partnered with Make a Wish Foundation to donate $5 for each use of #ShareYourEars. The end result was a $2 million donation to Make-A-Wish. (It also resulted in positive PR and unpaid publicity—convenient side effect.) This effort led to many kids with life-threatening medical conditions getting to experience their happiest moments because of this money.
We marketers can’t help but find a way to ride any trend train that has attention behind it—after all, it’s our job. While there will always be missteps and questionable intentions, there are those out there trying to make a difference. We’ve found a few inspirational examples of brands using their large and impressionable audiences to help others. What examples of marketing trends for good have you seen recently?
Stay tuned for my next blog post, where we dig into the much more self-serving side of marketing during these internet trends!