This post is by Dino Myers Lamptey, head of strategy at the7stars.
The proliferation of high-profile, selfie-driven campaigns like the No Make-Up Selfie and Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014 could trigger a backlash in 2015. People will quickly tire of the Social 'Campaign or Cause' Selfie and eventually stop participating – an apathy that will start to impact on brands.
Cancer Research can be proud to be associated with arguably the first ever marketing campaign of this kind to go viral. It's estimated the #nomakeupselfie campaign raised £8m in just six days (Source: The Guardian, March 2014).
And then came the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, going one step further and swapping photo for video to raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The results of #IBC put #nomakeupselfie well in the shade. As of September 2014, the campaign saw 17m videos shared, generating 10bn views by 440m people (Source: NY Times, Sept 2014). From July 29 to August 28 2014, ALS (US) received $98.2m, compared with $2.7m donated during the same period in 2013.
This success bred envy throughout the industry, with marketing teams soon challenged to ape the viral campaign with only half the budget. But while trying to replicate a similar campaign can raise the odds of success, a lack of originality can be a killer.
Don't be fooled
Creativity is often a healthy blend of plagiarism and originality, but bettering, or even just replicating, an existing idea is easier said than done. A good idea alone doesn't guarantee success. The precisions of timing, momentum and the all-important participants matter hugely, especially across social media. This is the power of context over content.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge had an all-star list of contributors spanning from Bill Gates to David Beckham. It's perhaps the very fact that the challenge wasn't for commercial gain that celebrities were more inclined to help the cause – yet a sudden sea-change meant celebrities had to become involved, whether they liked it or not. After all, it wasn't a good look to ignore a nomination under the watchful eyes of your loyal followers.
The lure of the social media challenge campaign has tempted other brands down the same path, but with little success. Shelter from the Storm hoped its #bedless campaign would help to raise awareness of the charity and drive donations to its JustGiving page by asking people to take a photo of themselves sleeping in a strange place. It has raised just £2,609 to date.
With too much success comes rejection
Many marketers mistake what is a temporary fad for an enduring trend and, in doing so, risk the potential backlash that will inevitably result from it. #WakeUpCall, which encouraged celebrities to share selfies taken just after they'd woken up, showed that even with a wealth of stars and a good cause, the campaign could still be ridiculed and quickly expire.
Of course even the #IBC had its day. A streets survey conducted by the7stars found that 7 in 10 people had had enough of the campaign during its height. As they say, the quicker the rise, the faster the fall. Marketers must think about changing or shaping culture through making or riding trends, not fads.
Is there a formula for success?
Human nature is often the key common denominator behind successful marketing campaigns and this has only been amplified by technology. For example, the desire to belong and the quest for a sense of community are fundamental human needs which have been given new relevance through social media.
#IBC has taught us a mixture of new and old lessons, primarily the power of involvement. Finding a way to encourage people to take an active part in your campaign will pay dividends. And while this is often easier said than done, the ambition to do so should always remain.
#IBC also challenged the adage "it is better to be first than to be best", as in this case, while the core elements were essentially the same as campaigns gone by, the small critical additions made it feel both better and like a first.
The opportunity for marketers in producing the next great social media challenge campaign can't be easily seen nor predicted. As people's desire to belong manifests itself in the modern day trend FOMO (the fear of missing out), we will soon move into the active rejection of this overt sociability and experience JOMO (the joy of missing out).
This rejection has always been part of the cynicism of the old, though it's now firmly ingrained among millennials who reject overly social brands and enjoy their own space and time.
Marketers must remember this, but also learn from successful campaigns which could still be bettered with a few new touches. Taking an old idea and delivering it with more relevant context by pushing the boundaries of the mainstream tech of the day will maximise the chances of success.
Understanding motivations behind behaviours is a key starting point for spotting the next social media trend or fad and choosing to jump on it or avoid it, but marketers need to understand modern cultures and never underestimate the ultimate power of context.