At last night’s VMAs… there were no salacious kisses a la Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley (‘94) or Madonna and Britney Spears (‘03). There were no dresses made out of meat (Gaga ‘10) or a Miley Cyrus twerking scandal (‘13). Instead, marketers were left looking at another day or two of ALS Ice Bucket Challenges as their marketing-ready cultural touchstones.
The larger question, of course, is are we seeing a shift away from the traditional “marketing calendar”? Is there more value in the cultural event, or in how the cultural event can be leveraged through marketing while being smack in the middle of the news cycle?
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a perfect example: Viral, powerful and in line with the classic arc of micro trends:
An event is discovered (by pioneers), shows up on the radar (early adopters), peaks (mass adopters) and then jumps the shark (laggers).
But in an attention-deficit society, cycles are speeded up. And so the entire lifespan of a phenomenon like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge rises and falls within a couple of weeks.
The real change in the process is how early marketers now insert themselves into the process. Right as ice buckets peaked last week, when we had seen everyone from Russell Brand to George W. Bush douse themselves, marketers entered the picture. A wet Samsung Galaxy challenged the iPhone.
Yesterday, Old Spice Guy jumped into the fray. Look for a few more this week until the bottom falls out.
The best marketers keep their fingers on the Twitter trigger, ready to pounce in real time and move up their place in the news cycle as Samsung did last week. And so last night, as THE most savvy marketers watched the spectacle that is the Video Music Awards—an annual petri dish designed to launch unexpected pop culture touchstones—there was ultimately nothing with enough juice for marketers to hitch their wagons to.