Only in the internet age could you find a cancer charity socially unacceptable.

But that’s what happened last week when Macmillan Cancer Support came under heavy fire from a number of people online for ‘stealing the ice bucket challenge’.

You can’t move without seeing some form of ice bucket challenge, from friends doing it on Facebook to funny stories of it going wrong on Twitter to videos of celebrities doing it on media sites.

The challenge as you probably know was set up in America by health charity the ALS Association to help raise funds to combat Motor Neurone disease. It’s been a social media phenomenon, helping raise tens of millions of pounds for the cause and helping embarrass thousands.

Except Macmillan, seeing an opportunity, jumped on the bandwagon and encouraged people to do the challenge and text ICE to a registered number at £3 a pop.

And a lot of people weren’t happy with that.

A creative cure?

In a short space of time Macmillan had raised hundreds of thousands of pounds from people doing the challenge, enough to apparently pay for six Macmillan nurses.

Macmillan has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds from people doing the challenge, enough to apparently pay for six Macmillan nurses.

And while that may be cause for celebration instead it caused a lot of anger, with exasperated Facebook and Twitter users sounding off.

Amongst the most cutting remarks was “Why couldn’t you just let ALS have their chance to raise funds? Why did you have to steal the idea from a charity which doesn’t have the profile that you have? Why not let the little guys have a chance? Why not think of your own idea?”

The official line from the MDNA was similar. “Of course we’re both trying to fund cures for diseases, but we’re much smaller. We’d rather a big charity didn’t come swooping in and take our funding away. We don’t have the resources that they do.”

Macmillan’s response highlighted that they’re using PPC and sponsored social posts to raise awareness, but were unapologetic. “Let’s be straight: we don’t own the #IceBucketChallenge hashtag. Nobody does. It’s a hashtag. And it’s something that in the charity sector, we need to continue to have a healthy debate about.”

Were Macmillan right to jump on the Ice Bucket bandwagon or should they have come up with their own campaign? Do the means justify the end? Let me know in the comments section below.

Wheel of fortune

Both sides produce a compelling argument, and with Macmillan highlighting that people were donating their ice bucket efforts to Macmillan before they got involved. It was their duty, they argue, to try and refine and raise awareness of those donations to aid their research.

Pretty hard to argue with. And while people may feel aggrieved at what they see as a bigger company funnelling funds away from another, another issue here is one that comes straight from the playground. Copycatting.

People are annoyed that Macmillan, despite all their good work fundraising over the years, have hijacked a campaign and haven’t come across as original. People’s attention hasn’t been caught for the right reasons, so why should they get their donations?

This isn’t just a fundraising problem. The pressure for brands to create something entertaining on a regular basis is a problem for a number of businesses, especially when people’s attention spans are currently lower than that of a goldfish.

Have you used social media to try and raise awareness for a charity? What results did you have and what was your campaign about? Let me know below.

Vote for Bob

A charity that’s doing it right caught my eye last week. Opening up the Metro I saw a campaign asking me to vote for Bob, a red squirrel fronting a quirky political campaign, directing people to Bob’s website.

In actuality the Vote for Bob campaign is a movement to raise awareness about the state of British nature and get politicians to back the campaign, especially in the run up to next year’s general election.

The small red squirrel has managed to attract more than 70,000 people to sign up to the campaign thanks to the campaign’s visibility across a wide range of marketing channels, from print, social media, downloadable posters, and more.

The RSPB-backed campaign is showing charities how to outline a cause, get a creative idea, and maximise its reach and potential with clever online marketing practices.

Tips on how to be creative online

The thing to note from the Vote for Bob campaign is that it isn’t reinventing the wheel. The steps above are pretty much how the creative marketing process happens in the simplest terms. Identify your market, create an idea for it, incentivise it, and push it through the most visible channels.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge going viral was a combination of celebrity influence, people spreading the word with nominations, and good luck.

Tips on how to be creative onlineAnd that’s not only for charities. Most creative marketing campaigns follow a similar formula. Most retail stores follow their business model. Travel agents, too – in fact any business that survives does so because they follow a specific business model.

“It’s not a case of doing something crazy and creative to reinvent the wheel. What really matters is getting to the heart of your users and community, and putting your own stamp on your business and campaign.”

When it comes to creativity though some business owners fear they’re lacking which is why they choose to outsource their marketing campaigns to an agency.

But business owners can be creative, and creative in all sorts of ways, whether it’s with bringing the best out of their staff or being talented at sales or more.

The most important thing to remember when trying to be creative is to get at the heart of what you’re doing, what you want to achieve, and get in the minds of your target audience. Complementing that campaign online can then help propel it into the stratosphere.

If you’d like to know how to make your brand more creative and visible online and how to use social media to your advantage contact the Webpresence team today!