Lessons for Auto Finance in the Ice Bucket Challenge Phenomenon

Yesterday, my daughter and wife were “nominated” to take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It should be an evening of chilly wet squeals in my house tonight.

In truth, it was only a matter of time. My wife has been inundated with Ice-Bucket-Challenge videos on her Facebook feed. For days, she has been repeatedly saying to me, “check out [INSERT NAME HERE] doing the Ice Bucket Challenge video.” (And, in case you get any ideas, don’t nominate me — I will take President Obama’s lead.)

From all of us in the world of marketing, the Ice Bucket Challenge is nothing short of remarkable. Last Thursday alone, The ALS Association raised $10 million. The group raised $64 million in all of 2013.

What lessons can be learned for auto finance?

The roots of the campaign deserve investigation. An interesting article on Slate.com makes it clear that the originals the Ice Bucket Challenge combined regular people with celebrities:

[T]he challenge “came from a dare that was circulating among a group of pro athletes, including golfer Greg Norman and motorcycle racer Jeremy McGrath.” Indeed, pro golfers were pouring cold water all over themselves back in June. The Golf Channel’s Jason Sobel explains that Chris Kennedy, a golfer on a minor-league circuit in Florida, was the first, on July 14, to focus the freezing fundraiser on ALS research.

From there, challenges begat challenges begat challenges.

But what are the mechanics of the viral campaign? Andy Sernovitz, who writes an amusing marketing blog called Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That!, boils it down to three simple factors that enabled this word-of-mouth campaign to flourish:

  • Find people who already have big networks and get them to share;
  • Make people look good when they share; and
  • Keep it fun, not an obligation.

This is good advice. It is simply not true that auto finance companies cannot spur a viral marketing campaign. Indeed, Sernovitz offers some simple guideposts for such an effort. And that is really the lesson of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: auto finance marketers should at least try to create viral marketing campaigns, but that, obviously, is the first step toward creating one. Think of it as your marketing challenge. You have 24 hours …

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