Why (You Think) The Ice Bucket Challenge is Stupid

“Why don’t they just give some money to ALS and skip the stupid Facebook video?”

If you’ve thought something like this, you’re not alone. In fact, millions of people probably share your opinion. And all of these people have some specific values in common. You’re not a bad person; it’s just that the craze around the Ice Bucket Challenge pushed your “scorn button”. Why?

Bringing this thought to work, does your brand marketing push your consumers’ buttons?

So far, the Ice Bucket Challenge has provided a whopping $41 million in donations.Intellectually, you know this couldn’t have happened without the awareness of the Ice Bucket. Let’s talk about the buttons the creators of the Challenge dialed in and specifically, the emotions elicited by values we all share. Then, how you may be able do the same with your marketing content.

We All Have Them

Without going into deep detail about values in this piece (plug: which we’re adding to our platform in September), research shows that every culture shares the same core values:

Researchers agree that the Schwartz Circumplex Model of Values is a good adaptation of earlier values research.

Most researchers agree that the Schwartz Circumplex Model of Values is a good adaptation of earlier values research. Importantly, this is a “circumplex”, which infers that there’s a relationship between the values, even if they’re conflicting, and that our values may move along the circumplex throughout our lives.

For example, Self-Enhancement comes at the expense of Self-Transcendence. If you’re very open to change, or a non-conformist like Richard Branson, you’re less likely to be that more deliberate person steeped in tradition.

How You Can Leverage Values and Emotions

Adapting Schwartz so that we can apply these great data to our marketing efforts, Arizona State University researched how emotions and values are linked in consumer purchases. From their research, we can illustrate ASU’s work:

 

How Values and Emotions are Linked

Now think back to the Ice Bucket Challenge. What value-buttons are they pushing? What value-buttons do you push with your content marketing or branding?

Shame on You!

Universalism (your “Public Self”), among all cultures, is said to be the dominant value. It makes sense; if we want to survive, we need to look out for everyone and the planet – not just our clan or tribe, which would be “benevolence”. In the Walking Dead, Hershel is the Universalist while Rick is the benevolent leader, suspicious of outsiders and fiercely protective of his group (if this changes in the last season, don’t tell me).

Universalists are sincerely sympathetic to the plight of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America or Syrian refugees. They may give money to the homeless and observe water or ozone restrictions. This public self value comes at the expense of both the private self and self-indulgence. It’s “Self-Transcendence” in Schwartz’s circumplex, “Public Self” in the second adaptation.

Most interestingly, the leading emotion evoked by public self values like Universalism and Benevolence? Shame.

How to Spin the Shame Card

Shame alone doesn’t work, at least not as well. Before there was the Ice Bucket Challenge, there was Movember, which donates money for men’s health. The social proof provided by Movember and the Ice Bucket Challenge does a fine job of spreading the shame. Do you share those horribly sad images of starving children? Of course not. Jonah Berger writes about the research conducted about “why we share” in his book, Contagious.

Those sad images just aren’t fun, which is what we’re wanting more and more. Self-Indulgence, or Hedonism, is the second value in the Challenge that makes it, and Movember contagious. If the ALS Association’s entire campaign were posting videos of people with ALS sadly asking for pledges, it would still evoke shame. But the donations only started rolling in when the giving got fun – self indulgent: enjoyable, surprising.

For the topic of an upcoming article, I’ll use some research to show that, as consumers, we’re moving along the circumplex to Self-Indulgence as a buying culture.

Where does that leave you, my scornful friend?

You’re Not a Monster

I’m sure you’re a fine human being if you don’t accept the challenge or think it’s stupid. I thought it was stupid. Take a look at the original Schwartz circumplex again. You need to have dominance in two values, Self-Transcendence and Hedonism/Self-Indulgence.

Opposite Self-Transcendence on the circumplex is Self-Enhancement. If you’re driven by power and ambition, climbing the corporate ladder regardless of who gets in the way, these values must come at the expense of the Self-Transcendence.

But remember, you need both. If you’re not into power and money and more benevolent than Rick, do you scorn selfies? Do you resist upgrading on your flight to LA because you don’t really need the extra legroom? When you go on vacation, are you more likely to have all your reservations lined up ahead of time instead of the “anything goes” approach?

If you’re contemptuous of the Challenge, we can infer that you have dominance in Self-Enhancement and/or you’re put off by Self-Indulgence.

Your Brand Has Values, Too

Stephen Colbert still laughs at the fact that the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people. Whether you agree or disagree, you can look at the values your branding and advertising possess how they align with the people who buy your products or services. If you’re consistently in alignment, you can start to leverage them and push some emotional buttons with data to back you up.

In this short article, I’ve really just hit the high points. If you’d like to know more about values-based marketing, drop me a message or sign up for the Mattr blog.

(Click Here to Donate to the ALS)

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