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What can marketers learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge? That was the question that inspired last week's panel on CBC's The National, where I joined Polar's Kunal Gupta and The Globe and Mail's Susan Krashinsky to talk not only about the viral campaign of the summer, but about its larger implications for marketing and online content.

Inspired by the generosity of contributors who have donated to ALS as part of this challenge - as well as brave folks like my Vision Critical colleagues Andrew Reid and Derek Smyth, who both dumped actual buckets of ice water on their heads - I can't help but see the challenge as a resounding success. With $88.5 million raised within one month for the ALS Association, and half the Internet talking about this campaign, it's time to put the "slacktivismÛ argument to rest for good. Despite the critique that this is simply sloughing off donations that would otherwise have gone elsewhere - and the undeniable number of people who took on the challenge rather than donate to the cause - the campaign has once again shown that when you engage people with an online call to action that captures their imagination, the payoff can be huge.

Vision Critical Chief Revenue Officer Derek Smyth doing the Ice Bucket Challenge.

But what does that mean for other organizations or companies that want to jump on the viral bandwagon? As Vision Critical's Aaron Paquette recently pointed out, CMOs who would use memes for marketing need to ask whether going viral offers real value to the business and to their customers. That's why I was glad The National panel gave us a chance to talk about what can help companies figure out whether the latest meme is right for them - namely, by talking to their customers.

Of course, meme marketing is just one tool in the arsenal of marketers who are trying to capture customer attention, which is why the panel also looked at the implications of "stuntÛ campaigns like Westjet's Christmas give away, and the growing phenomenon of native advertising.

You can watch the full conversation on the CBC website.


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