What can we learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge?

  • Categories:

    Inspiration, Social Media

  • Date:

    August 25, 2014

What can we learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge?



Inspiration, Social Media

The Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS is (insert positive adjective here). Since this is a family show, I’m going to stick with amazing.

Facebook said last week that 2.4 million videos "related to the ice bucket challenge have been shared" on the social network, and more than 28 million people have posted, commented on or liked a challenge-related post. Those numbers continue to grow exponentially. The Facebook team also shared a cool map (it looks like a flight route map in the back of an airline magazine) that shows how the challenge spread across the country after originating in Boston. That’s textbook viral.

If you haven’t heard by now, the ALS Association is a non-profit organization that conducts research and provides assistance for people battling the debilitating neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The ALS Association has announced donation numbers on a regular basis since the campaign began – as of August 25, the ALSA has received “$79.7 million in donations compared to $2.5 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 25). These donations have come from existing donors and 1.7 million new donors to The Association.” It has been reported that the entire annual amount spent on ALS funding from federal and charitable organizations is $80 million.

Wow. Talk about making an impact. What started as a quirky movement is raising enough money to matter for a rare, devastating disease. What’s more, the Ice Bucket Challenge has inspired people to donate to charity in general – whether to the fight against ALS or another important cause.

As marketers, we should take note of why this campaign succeeded.  I think it can be summed up in three reasons:

  1. It’s simple.
  2. It feeds on peer pressure.
  3. The participants feel proud for participating.

If your social and online initiatives meet these three criteria, you have a real chance of success (probably not Ice Bucket Challenge success, but still a positive outcome).

Too often marketers develop social media campaigns that are just the opposite:

  1. Challenging, multi-step contests that require extraordinary effort to participate.
  2. Campaigns that lack a sense of community, pass-on value or easily shareable elements.
  3. Initiatives without any built-in sense of accomplishment. People need to feel good about participating, whether that’s supporting a good cause or showing off a high score.

The challenge for the ALSA and other ALS organizations is to capitalize on this awareness, turn the first-time donors into repeat donors (and advocates) and do something worthwhile with the new money. If they succeed, the Ice Bucket Challenge will become the gift that keeps on giving.

We’ll be rooting for them!

Speaking of the whole ice bucket challenge thing, a bunch of my colleagues dumped ice water on their heads for the camera. Wray Ward also made a donation to the ALSA.