5 Lessons Solar Marketers Can Learn from the ALS Icebucket Challenge

I tried to avoid it, but after several call-outs by family and colleagues (and a quiet donation), I knew I had to finally respond to the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” when Henry Dziuba, president of SMA’s America’s called me out after this:

It was creative, and I respected that, so I couldn’t ignore it and I couldn’t just toss a bucket of ice cold water over my head with another donation. At the same time, I had to keep within the “Ice bucket” hallmarks, which included:

1) A bucket filled with something, most commonly ice.

2) A public challenge to at least one other person to take the challenge or donate within 24 hours.

3) Videotaping the Challenge and uploading it to YouTube and sharing the video widely on social networks.

By the time I received SMA’s challenge, the ALS charity had raised over $80 million, and the world had seen many cascading buckets of ice water and other variations on the theme. After several ideas, including the passive aggressive notion of taking a blowtorch and melting an ice bucket, I came up with something less flammable, but still creative and fun. Check it out… especially if you’re in the solar industry and haven’t donated yet:

Below are some other solar industry examples of the Ice Bucket Challenge, but before you watch all those, let’s see if we can learn some solar guerrilla marketing lessons about how to create a viral phenomenon that spreads.

Lesson 1: Getting something to go viral is unpredictable. When you research how the Ice Bucket phenomena started, you can see that it just “happened.” There was no campaign started by the ALS Association, but according to Time Magazine, it started with two good friends busting each other’s chops for charity.

The lesson here is that you can plan your solar viral video all you want, but you can never count on it taking off—unless it’s backed by a huge (and expensive) media campaign, in which case you’re really just paying for advertising. That’s not the same thing as something that is genuinely viral without having to pay millions for ads and professional PR. Nevertheless, you can plan an inexpensive viral solar guerrilla marketing campaign, and I think it should include the other lessons below.

Lesson 2: Make it a movement, not an advertisement. It’s doubtful that the Ice Bucket Challenge would have taken off as it did if there weren’t a non-profit cause behind it. Despite our differences in the United States and the world, people do care about each other, and they only need to be sincerely inspired to act.

So whatever you do in your attempt at solar guerrilla marketing, it’s not about your solar product or service, but about something beyond that, something that you and other people care about. So what do your customers care about? What do you care about? Answer those two questions, and you’ve got the kindling for social fire that can spread, and that goes for B2B solar companies too.

Lesson 3: Make it fun. Almost as much as people want to donate and selflessly do something for other people, people also want to have fun doing it. That’s why we have walk-a-thons, casino charity events, and climate-change rides, because people love to raise and donate money for a good cause while having fun doing it.

So whatever cause you champion to go viral, be sure to make it fun. That’s really the secret sauce.

Lesson 4: Videotape it and make it interactive and shareable. Imagine if it were 2004 and the two guys that started the Ice Bucket Challenge just videotaped the first ice bucket dousing and then personally delivered the video to his friend. The campaign never would have gone viral without YouTube and Facebook and Twitter.

More importantly, the campaign was physically interactive. You didn’t just watch someone dump ice water over their head. The person completed the challenge and then passed the challenge on to someone else, potentially you. So once again, make it fun, and design a solar campaign that also inspires people to create their own content, which in turn inspires others to create more creative fun content and share again, and so on…

Lesson 5: Try something. I think that the biggest thing that prevents solar marketers from attempting viral marketing is the fear that you’ll fail and waste time and money. First of all, as we’ve seen, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it just has to be a fun and creative idea. Second, if you don’t try, then absolutely nothing will happen. So fail fast and try again. You may just need practice or perhaps some longer brain storming sessions.

The other thing that kills creative ideas is the fear of asking permission from superiors. If you’re not a solar CEO reading this, then asking your CEO to do something bold is perhaps your greatest psychological risk, but I think it’s worth taking. If you want cover, send your CEO this solar Ice Bucket Challenge deconstruction blog post, and perhaps it will inspire him/her to listen to your ideas or starting a brain storming session.

As promised, here are a few other solar Ice Bucket Challenges. Enjoy…. and UnThink Solar.

 

 

 

 

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is a solar marketing and communications consultant at UnThink Solar and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. For more solar marketing info, sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter or follow @SolarFred on Twitter.

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