The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Campaign and Why It's So Successful

August 25, 2014 | By: Megan Breinig | 2 min read

In the midst of the success of the ALS ice bucket challenge, we decided to break down the marketing ingredients that have made the online media movement such a hit. What is it exactly that makes this campaign so successful while others crash and burn? While there is no way to guarantee a viral campaign, there are some steps you can take to spice up your odds. Here's how the ALS challenge found success.

They defined the idea

The Ice Bucket Challenge concept is simple: Donate to ALS and/or douse yourself with freezing cold water. Narrow your idea to one cause and one call to action. Don’t try to blanket several different ideas into one campaign and don’t over complicate the process. The simpler the concept, the easier it will be for users to digest and potentially participate.

The ALS Ice bucket uses all three connection appeals to get consumers to care and participate in their cause. If you aren’t familiar, the challenge calls for participants to dump a bucket of ice-cold water on themselves in a post-able, shareable video, donate money to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), or both. The movement has celebrities, politicians, and everyday people alike getting amped about the cause.

Here is one of our favorite videos:

They made it worth caring about

People will only participate in a campaign or movement that sparks immediate personal connection. There are three different ways that consumers have been known to connect:

Association: The campaign involves a group or organization that the consumer has already established ties to or can easily get behind.

Self interest: The campaign covers topic or cause that lets the individual promote him or herself while participating.

Emotion: The campaign involves people on an emotional level. Note that this is not to say tugging sad heartstrings is the only way to have your digital campaign go viral. In fact, research shows that videos that evoke positive emotions (exhilaration, hilarity, astonishment, happiness, inspiration) are more likely to be shared than those that evoke negative emotions (anger, disgust, sadness, shock, frustration.)

They got the right people involved

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has done an exceptional job of getting opinion leaders on board. Sure, you may have a great cause and concept. But without the right exposure, your concept may never reach its full potential. Have someone with a following and some weight to their name jump in early on, then let the ripple effect begin.

They made it just weird enough

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

For some reason, people love seeing friends and celebrities suffer through a cold-water blast. Getting to name exactly who should do it next is icing on the cake. Make sure the campaign contains at least one element that will entertain people, something they would want to talk about. Fueling conversations and awareness is what it's all about. Without a reason to talk, the campaign won't catch fire.

Remember: credible content and concepts get the consumer to to believe in your campaign. Connections get them to care about it. And the right exposure gets them to act.

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