‘The challenge’: the new gold standard in charitable campaign marketing

by | Jun 22, 2015 | Public Relations, Social Media

When the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge ran like wildfire through social media, it revolutionized the way charities thought about advertising. Countless Facebook mentions and $115 million in donations later, it showed non-profits there were alternatives to the marketing mainstays of tear-jerking appeals and even newer techniques like shockvertising.

Responding to that global tidal wave, the Canadian Cancer Society recently launched its second annual Fearless Challenge in which participants don’t just step, but leap —sometimes literally— outside their comfort zones to help raise awareness and money.

The concept is simple: “take the fear out of cancer by facing your own fears.” To participate you need to pick something that scares the daylights out of you, set a target amount, campaign for dollars and when you reach that goal, (ideally) document your fright and click share.

If you need help pinpointing your worst nightmare, the society’s website has suggestions that run the gamut of terror, mortification and self-sacrifice: eat bugs, skydive, hang out with a clown, read from your diary or—the most horrifying—give up social media for a week.

Campaigns of this nature are forging a new frontier in marketing: instead of asking the public to simply share a piece of content, they are making them the content creator.

When it works, this approach has a longer shelf life than the typical viral advertisement because the audience is directly involved with—and excited about—the message. The cause becomes personal, while the dialogue evolves and endures.

The Fearless Challenge has all the hallmarks of what could be an internet sensation: celebrity backing? Check. Social media-friendly content? Check. The uniquely human desire to experience thrills at others’ expense? Check.

It hits all the same notes as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—high impact, shareable, seasonable and franchiseable. But will it be able to replicate its success?

To get involved, click here (and if you are more of the safety-in-numbers type, feel free to sign up as a group).


Hartley Butler George


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