It’s ‘The Show…and Showing Up’ : How the ALS Icebucket Challenge has Implications for Millennial Marketers.
I remember being home from college and sitting on my parents’ couch flipping through channels on a Friday night, and stopping to watch a telethon on TV. A comedian appeared in the center of the screen and made me laugh for 10 minutes or so. Shortly after, the cameraman would cut to a bank of celebrities answering telephones and I switched the channel.
I switched for a number of reasons, but mainly because I was 19 and broke. The little money I did have was not going to a charity. However, with the enormous wave of ice water that has been washing over my social media newsfeed in the last few weeks, I am starting to think perhaps we are looking at a shift. I recently did a little research on the demographics of charitable-giving pre-and post social media. I came across a number of reports (pre-social media) including one from 1996 done which found that “donations were higher among those aged 40 – 84 than among those younger or older.” A recent Gallup poll done last year showed the largest percentage of Americans who reported charitable donations came from the 50+ age demographic. That did not surprise me. What did surprise me is the percentage of charitable donations for this campaign made by the Millennial target.
The most common reference I hear about Millennials is their narcissism and entitlement. Yet, this poll among a number of others was reporting that close to 70% of Millennials had donated to charity or spent time volunteering for charitable causes. So the question is, how has the digital age of media affected the current profile of the “Charitable Giver” and what does that mean for marketers?
The ALS Icebucket Challenge has three key elements that successfully targeted Millennials and unwittingly challenged them to break the mold of a charitable giver. How did it accomplish this?
- Millennials bit into it. By using social media as a forum, it happened right where they live.
- It successfully drew on their well-known desire to curate and create their own image on social media. If they are going to ‘do good’ they want others to know about it. More than narcissism, they saw this challenge as a part of their identity they wanted others to ‘get’ about them: we’re seeing playfulness, tenacity, and a compassionate core.
- It allowed a forum for ‘call-out credibility’. By giving the Millennials a space to publically call-out their friends in a light-hearted yet competitive context, the Icebucket Challenge had appeal and credibility. As with youth since time immemorial, reaching one the right way means reaching many.