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September 16, 2014
How to Have an Epic Company Response to the #IceBucketChallenge

If you haven’t seen someone participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, you have been living on another planet. Celebrities, politicians, and your friends and family have gotten wet and uploaded their videos to social media. I even saw two pre-teens doing the challenge in their front yard on my way to the library this weekend. The Ice Bucket Challenge is everywhere.

But in the event you have, in fact, been vacationing on Mars, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge involves the participant dumping a bucket of ice water on his or her head or donating to ALS-related research and charities. Most participants end up doing both and finish the effort by nominating a few others by name to accept the challenge. According to the ALS Association, they’ve gained over 3 million new donors, and other ALS-related charities have also been the recipient of the outpouring of support.

There have been over 2 million ice bucket videos posted on Facebook, and the hashtag #IceBucketChallenge has trended on Twitter. Most involve individuals, but more and more companies are getting in on the act. What can these challenges tell you about a business or a brand? Lots! Let’s look at a few examples.

Reinforce the Brand
In addition to giving to a worthy cause, the Ice Bucket Challenge is an opportunity to share information about your company both visually and verbally. Since many companies rely on the written word — press releases, website posts, and tweets — this challenge has created an opportunity to use video in a new way.

For example, CJ Pony Parts, a Mustang parts and accessories retailer in Pennsylvania, went beyond the one-person-to-one-bucket formula to include dozens of employees, each in a T-shirt bearing the company’s logo. And once all that water was on the ground in their parking lot, the company showed off one of its bright green Mustangs by doing a burnout. Watch to the end of the CJ Pony Parts video to see the mustang stay stationary with its wheels spinning and creating smoke. This Ice Bucket Challenge shows off their giving company spirit as well as their expertise in cars: a win-win.

Show Some Personality
The Ice Bucket Challenge is also an opportunity to show off the corporate culture. Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates showed off his geeky sense of humor by designing a high-tech contraption with a pulley to pour the water over him. Totally unnecessary, since two hands would work just as well, but a great chance for Gates to share his sense of humor and personality with the public.

These Ice Bucket Challenge videos are also a chance to show off your surroundings. For a company like WebpageFX, who recently restored an historic mansion in Harrisburg, PA, the Ice Bucket Challenge was a chance to show off the renovations. The employees show a team spirit by participating together and viewers get to see their new digs. The message is clear: a strong culture of teamwork exists at these companies.

Think Big
At this point, there have been millions of people pouring one little bucket of ice over their heads. If you want to stand out, you’ll have to think big. One bucket will no longer do.

The team at Empire CAT have an advantage, since they sell and rent construction equipment. But convincing their president and CEO Jeff Whiteman, along with several members of the leadership team, to stand under the bed of a Cat 770 off-highway truck and get dumped on…well, that’s epic! They also reinforced their brand by nominating the Caterpillar CEO for the challenge.

Taking the Plunge
So how can your company relate the Ice Bucket Challenge to the company brand and culture? First, make a plan. Is there a particular campaign, location, or leadership team member that could be the focus of your Ice Bucket Challenge? These videos are short and often homemade, so a smartphone may be all you need. But if you wanted to use a higher quality camera, multiple angles, and even slow motion to get the full water-dumping effect, it could be a good investment. Even if you decide to hire a professional videographer, still keep the finished video brief.

Brainstorm with your team about who you could challenge after the water has been dumped: is there a friendly competitor, a client, or a mentor that might be a good fit?

When you are ready to publish, use the hashtags #IceBucketChallenge and #ALSIceBucketChallenge so that your video will show up in searches. Also tag the people you’ve challenged and the people who have challenged you in your post, increasing its reach.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has generated millions of dollars in donations that will help to find a cure to this devastating disease. An added benefit? Businesses can show community spirit and build their brand in the process.

I’m sure I haven’t captured all of the most epic ice bucket videos in this brief post, so share your favorite corporate Ice Bucket Challenge video in the comments below!

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Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and designer based in Pennsylvania. She has been passionate about career development ever since her college years — all four of which she spent interning in her college’s career center. Now that she is her own boss, she shares the practical advice that she finds works in her own life. To see more of her work, visit her design blog.
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