How the Mannequin Challenge Can Help Your Marketing This Holiday Season

How long can you stay frozen in time? That’s the challenge people everywhere are taking up, producing fun videos that are going viral on social media. If you haven’t noticed #mannequinchallenge on your social channels  — or read about it online — you probably will soon.

The videos are everywhere. At least everywhere that younger people (Millennials) are spending their time online. What they have in common is people — sometimes in crazy poses — holding as still as a mannequin while a camera pans the scene around them. There may be background activity and likely will be music (many feature the song Black Beatles by Rae Sremmurd), but the challenge is for players to hold perfectly still for as long as possible.

So what’s it all about? Actually, it’s just for fun. This hot new craze became popular with high school and college students in early October 2016 and soon spread around the world. Then sports teams, celebrities, and brands began having fun — and attracting attention — by making videos and posting them online.

But just because this is a fun trend doesn’t mean you can’t use it to get your brand out there and get some potentially viral traffic this holiday season. You just need to keep it fun, and above all else, authentic.

Some Examples of Mannequin Challenge Marketing

If you haven’t encountered the videos via social media, you can find many examples of #mannequinchallenge online. Even Time magazine ranked the 23 best Mannequin Challenge videos. The Time picks include a 17-second clip tweeted by Paul McCartney and shared on his Facebook page.

Hillary Clinton even got in on the fun the night before the election, urging voters not to “stand still” on election day. Regardless of how that turned out, the message was clever.

The cast of the upcoming Hairspray Live! on NBC (seen above,) stood still for a video sure to attract attention to the live musical adaptation of the Broadway musical and earlier film. And Sesame Street played along for fun, producing a 1:38-second  #mannequinchallenge video noteworthy for the Muppet Ernie blowing it by moving and talking when the camera got to him.

Of course these are examples made by television pros, but yours don’t need to be as elaborate to be just as effective.

So Where’s the Marketing Value?

PR Week reported that a number of national brands are engaging with social media via Mannequin Challenge videos. These include Denny’s, Target, Coca-Cola, Sprite, Pixar, and Shopify.

As with anything that people are paying attention to, the question for digital marketers is whether there is an advantage to playing along.

It’s hard to say how long #mannequinchallenge will be popular, but it’s a safe bet that it provides an opportunity for some holiday season promotion and can be worth your time, especially if you’re trying to reach the highly valued 18- to 34-year-old demographic.

But the flip side of that is that if you’re trying to reach Millennials, you need a very subtle touch. If you can produce a short, fun video that will entertain them and come across as authentic, you win. Look like you’re trying to co-opt something that was supposed to be fun for commercial reasons and you lose.

So for marketers, it’s a double challenge. Can you strike a pose, have some fun, get your message across and be perceived as authentic?

Fortunately, these videos are relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, so don’t be afraid to try. Even the smallest business can join the fun and attract attention with #mannequinchallenge.

Shooting Tips

mannequin challenge marketing tips

To put together your Mannequin Challenge creation, you need a device capable of recording video, a group of people to participate, and a theme.

As with any project, you’ll have best results if you have good equipment, but you can even use the video camera on your smartphone. You may want to have music playing in the background or add it later; in either case, be sure you have rights to use the music.

So what might your theme be? Many popular Mannequin Challenge videos have featured people doing whatever they usually do, but holding a pose throughout the shoot. Whoever is taking the video should move about the scene, showing it from different perspectives.

Since we are going into the holidays, why not play up that angle? Subtly announce a Black Friday sale, show off some new products, or just go with a general holiday theme.

If you operate a restaurant, for instance, you might have your kitchen staff fully involved in preparing food, but frozen in time for the duration of the video. Be sure to encourage some dramatic flair. Your chef, for instance, might be holding a knife in the air. And the more people, the better.

Take a look at the video produced by The Pancake Parlour. The entire staff — and patronage — are frozen in time as they go about their shift. It might give you some ideas for how your business can join in the fun.

Get others involved in planning your video. After all, it’s supposed to be fun, so turn the production into a party and serve refreshments before, after, or between takes.

Sponsor a Contest

If you don’t want to make your own video, you might sponsor a social media contest and ask people to submit their Mannequin Challenge videos featuring your brand. You can offer prizes or just feature all of them on your Facebook page or website.

Undoubtedly those who have submitted videos will share them with their friends, increasing your reach. And just the fact that you’ve recognized and are participating in a popular trend will score some points.

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How to Use Your Video

Once you have video — whether you create it yourself or have contest entries — there are lots of ways you can use it:

  • Post to your existing social profiles. This can include Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. You can also send it out to your email subscribers.
  • If you want to reach a broader, targeted audience, try sponsoring your post on Facebook. This is an excellent way of getting it in front of your exact target market.
  • Stay in fron of your current customers by making a mannequin challenge “digital holiday card.” Then you can post it on social, and send it out to your email list. The sentiment will be appreciated, and (hopefully) entertaining.
  • Be sure to use the hashtag #mannequinchallenge when you post your video. This identification will make it easy for people to find your video across various social media channels.

Wrapping Up

Savvy digital marketers know that attention spans are increasingly short. There is growing competition for an audience. Being prepared to adjust your plans to appeal to a niche audience is essential. And opportunities like Mannequin Challenge are particularly good for businesses striving to connect with Millennials.

Millennials are more likely to trust their peers than brands. More than 70 percent of them are engaged with social media every day. If you can connect with them in their space, and earn their trust, there’s a good chance that they will share their good feelings about you with their friends.

Joining the Mannequin Challenge can be a great way for you to participate with this key demographic and have some fun at the same time.

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