Why the #TwizzlerChallenge Won’t Become Another #IceBucketChallenge

While the “Twizzler Challenge” is being touted by many publications as the next “Ice Bucket Challenge,” it has yet become nearly as successful as the ALS campaign that went viral last summer. Why aren’t as many brands and consumers jumping on board?

The “Twizzler Challenge” is sweet and fun: Two people chomp down on a Twizzler until their lips meet, Lady and the Tramp style. And it’s for a good cause: autism.

Like the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” the “Twizzler Challenge” has been supported by celebrities, including TODAY show anchors Kathie Lee Gifford and Matt Lauer.

However, to date few brands have actually jumped on the #TwizzlerChallenge bandwagon. Why hasn’t the campaign got as much attention as the cause may deserve?

One reason, according to Matt Dowshen, president of full-service agency Partners + Napier NYC, could be that the “Twizzler Challenge” is not as “pure” as the “Ice Bucket Challenge.”

“The ‘Twizzler Challenge’ involves a well-known brand, which reeks of marketing,” Dowshen says.

Additionally, he thinks that the campaign adds an entirely new layer of intimacy, which may distract challengers from the cause itself.

“Will [the two challengers] kiss? Did they kiss? Should they kiss? These are all interesting questions. But that story begs for thought beyond the cause, [while] dumping an icy bucket of water on your head didn’t,” Dowshen explains.

“This is a different and irrelevant story that is distracting from the one that is intended and needs to be told. Is this about the potential intimacy between two people? Or is it about two people taking action for a cause? The whole thing just gets a little muddy. But ultimately, are there really any hard and fast rules for something going viral? I think not.”

Also, there’s a disconnect between the brand itself and autism, the case it’s marketing for, adds Shelley Ong, brand impact lead at agency Enso.

“While I’m all for sugar-sweet kisses in good fun for a good cause, what feels like the missing ingredient is an authentic connection between Twizzlers and the pursuit of autism awareness,” she says. “I would challenge brands like Twizzlers instead to consider a shared value strategy: What are their brand values and business strategy? And how does that align with what the world needs? Taking a shared value approach would allow brands like Twizzlers to build social initiatives that align with their core, resulting in sustainable impact over time.”

And while Christopher Bridgland, director of digital strategy at Leo Burnett Chicago, predicts that more brands are going to participant in the “Twizzler Challenge” in the coming weeks, he does think the autism campaign lacks the fun and social nature that was seamlessly integrated into the “Ice Bucket Challenge.”

“The ‘Twizzler Challenge’ isn’t inherently fun or social. The action is awkward and cringe-worthy, thus there is little empathy you feel toward the participants. Who realistically wants to see Bill Gates kiss Paul Allen?” he says. “What made the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ work is the use of easy, fun visual acts such as throwing ice on one’s self. The action has to be simple. We know that simple spreads quickly. It is participatory at the heart. The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ [also] enabled people to show themselves in a genuinely fragile state, [which] creates empathy for the person [and] in turn pushes people to act.”

Bridgland continues that brand awareness, initiative, and influencing social behavior are three factors that may enable a campaign to go viral.

“Brands should allow social-by-design campaigns to live and breathe naturally as participants evolve the idea,” he says. 

Image via Shutterstock.

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