What Makes Engaging Health Care Marketing Campaigns Work?

You couldn’t escape it even if you wanted too. The ALS Ice Bucket Video Challenge was a viral marketing sensation last summer. Why did it work? What made this engaging health care marketing campaign so effective?

According to the ALS Association, the Ice Bucket Challenge has become the:

world’s largest global social media phenomenon. More than 17 million people uploaded their challenge videos to Facebook; these videos were watched by 440 million people a total of 10 billion times.”

The success of last year’s challenge brought on much awareness and community engagement. In a matter of just two months, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge raised over $100 million which was a 3,500% increase from the same time last year. This is what you call a fundraiser’s and marketer’s dream. Due to its success it will be back again this year, and every year until a cure is found.

engaging health care marketing campaigns - The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

What made this health care marketing campaign so successful? How did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge see a colossal increase of 3,500% in such short a time frame? According to some, the accessibility of the campaign was a big part of its success. It was fun and easy to participate. There was also an immediacy to it which also made the campaign move at incredible lightning speed.

Like any marketing campaign, there’s an art and science to its success which has many moving parts. Whether you have a large or small campaign here are 6 takeaways to help ensure the success of your next marketing campaign.

1. Create a written plan

What makes an engaging health care marketing campaign successful is not entirely different from other industry marketing campaigns. At its core, like all marketing campaigns, it must have a clear plan and objective. Ideally it should be a written plan that clearly states the various stages and roll outs of the campaign as they lead up to the big day.

Stakeholders and industry influencers should be identified and actively involved in the contribution of the campaign. The takeaway here is to get all the players involved. There needs to be accountability and recognition for their contribution. The more involved they are, the more invested they are in the success of the campaign.

Charities rely heavily on the contribution and support of many volunteers sponsors. Having a written plan allows you and everyone to have a clear path to the road of success.

Engaging heath care marketing campaigns need a written plan

2. Turn data analytics into actionable data intelligence

This is one of the most important, and often forgotten, steps which is why I put this near the top of the list. By employing advanced analytics you can go beyond superficial numbers (i.e. likes on your Facebook page).

Social and website analytics provide a wealth of user intelligence. Why not, turn your data analytics into actionable data intelligence that enables you to create strong engaging health care marketing campaigns.

[Tweet “Social and website analytics provide a wealth of user intelligence”]

Part of the science of content marketing is taking insights gathered from your analytics to measure your performance and to learn how best to optimize it the next time. It’s not about focusing on what you did wrong but more about what you can learn from one marketing campaign to the next. The better you understand your audience the better the results you can expect to see.

3. Understand your audience

I believe the ALS Association built a strong social community around their marketing campaign. Everyone wanted to be part of it. From industry influencers, celebrities, and politicians to everyday people, this viral marketing sensation took off last summer from a community connection.

Know your audience - create engaging health care marketing campaigns work

Image Source: By Nicolai Berntsen

There is definitely a power to video storytelling but what really made this campaign go viral was the simplicity of it. Mobile devices and social media made it so easy to hear about it and get involved. Videos were coming through everyone’s social feeds, in particular Facebook. Everyone loved seeing these 1 min personal videos. The screams and laughter of getting covered in ice cold water.

The campaign was fun and timely, by taking place during the hot summer months. It was just long enough to go viral, encouraged people to become involved and take action. Everyone knew what to do. It was contagious and to get involved meant you cared. The more people got involved the more excited people got. Who was going to be challenged next was a big part of the excitement.

The Ice Bucket Challenge felt self-managed in a way. It wasn’t the team at ALS reminding everyone to contribute but rather it was the community itself. I heard time and time again, through the various videos I watched, people stating they were going to donate and reminding others to do the same.

The ALS Association knew their audience. Some people got involved for personal reasons and some got involved because they were simply moved and motivated by others. A community grew that connected people on so many levels. From your next door neighbour, to friends and family many miles away, the community was vast yet very connected.

Here’s my own personal video from last year’s challenge. I’ll be participating again this year.

4. Visuals

The ALS Association really took the time to understand their audience with this campaign. They have a great website and created a brilliant health care marketing campaign that spoke to the various groups that make up their target audiences.

Take for instance, the understanding of what is ALS is all about. They created an excellent infographic on ‘what is ALS’ and linked the ice bucket challenge to that campaign. They also created an infographic and video on how to participate. Creating a simple but effective call to action (CTA) for every marketing piece adds more value and strength a marketing campaign.

Their efforts were widely recognized as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge recently won a total of 11 awards at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. With that, they are expected to kick things off again sometime this month. Knowing their audience was key to its marketing success. They made it as easy as possible for people to get involved, even during their summer holidays.

I’m excited to see what they come up with this year and how they plan to kick it off.

5. Create a clear and consistent Call To Action (CTA)

The call to action has got to be clear and consistent. The social community did a wonderful job at self-managing it. This was made possible by fundraiser organizers who created clear CTAs within the various marketing materials.

For instance, the CTA mentioned earlier in the ALS infographic.  It was clear and effective:

You took the ice bucket challenge: now what?’

I love this. They make it easy to understand the what, why and how behind this campaign and what to do next. There needs to be a natural next step that flows. Don’t assume your audience knows what to do. Don’t leave them guessing. People want to get involved so your job is to make the call to action easy for them.

Your social community is an extension of you. Give them the tools they need to help spread the word and they will do it for you. Let them help you succeed.

[Tweet “A social community is here to help – give them the tools to help spread the word”]

6. The science of hashtags

Is there a science to hashtags? Yes, there is. Research says you should be using hashtags and Buffer did an excellent post on why. As they adeptly point out, hashtags extend beyond Twitter. Hashtags are now used on Facebook, Google+ and Instagram. If you are using any of these platforms then just go for it and use hashtags.

Finding relevant content and subject matter is extremely effective with hashtags. I use them all the time when searching for ideas or news on a specific topic. Plain and simple, they just make sense and work.

A hashtag also needs to be memorable. One of the secrets to a hashtag-driven marketing campaign in the world of social media is for it to be memorable and sometimes it needs to hit a nerve.

For instance, the hashtag #100DeadliestDays health care marketing social media campaign:

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), injuries and deaths increase during the period of time between Memorial Day and Labor Day, essentially, when most children are on summer break.

This astounding and very scary reality brought on a strong marketing awareness campaign between IPC and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Public Relations Department.

They launched a social media marketing campaign that focused on a number of safety awareness issues that are often forgotten over summer holidays. The hashtag #100DeadliestDays hits a nerve and creates a memorable campaign that makes it easy to share and remind others of the importance of safety.


Today’s blog post reflects two passions of mine, marketing and fundraising.

With the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge returning this summer I am excited to see what they come up with this year. Warmer summer temperatures and a whole lot of heart is sure make this another marketing sensation.

There are so many ways to connect with your target audience when creating marketing campaigns. Whether it is small or large, what makes an engaging health care marketing campaign work is essentially strategy.

Take the time to create a plan, understand your audience and the various personas that make up your target audience. When you create content that speaks to directly to your target audience, the campaign will resonate and your audience will throw their efforts behind it.

Edited photo - Diana Diana Davies-Harju, Partner, Marketing at InnovaMap

We are now on our summer editorial schedule posting our blog every other week.
Enjoy your summer holidays!

InnovaMap is an Ottawa based content marketing firm, specializing in the health industry.

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