3 Marketing Lessons from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” – a fundraising campaign for Lou Gehrig’s disease that has quickly become a viral Internet sensation.  Even celebrities, athletes and politicians, such as Oprah, LeBron James and Bill Gates, are getting involved in the effort to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). To date, the challenge has raised $15.6 million for the ALS Association to research this devastating disease.

The rules are simple: once challenged, you have 24 hours to either dump a bucket of ice water on your head and post it on social media, or donate $100 to an ALS charity of your choice (or both if you’re feeling generous). Every participant must then nominate three more people. So, how did this viral challenge actually start? Chris Kennedy, a golfer in Sarasota, Fla., was nominated by a friend to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge, which was not associated with ALS at the time. Originally, the campaign allowed participants to select a charity of their choice. Kennedy passed the challenge along and eventually his social network connected with Pete Frates, who had been diagnosed with ALS and involved in raising awareness for the disease. Frates is a mentor and friend to Pat Quinn, another man suffering with ALS. On July 31st, Frates posted his video on Facebook, using the hashtag #StrikeOutALS and #Quinnforthewin– which is when the campaign began to take off.

While there has been some backlash, this campaign has undoubtedly been a huge success, both in terms of donations and awareness. Marketers should pay attention to three important components that this wildly successful social media campaign mastered:

1. True Meaning

The reason the Ice Bucket Challenge has been such a success is because it touched people. There is emotion driving the campaign. It’s important to remember that your customers and prospects are people and will respond to campaigns that strike an emotional chord.

2. Utilize Social Media as a Tactic

  • People love videos. Images and graphics have long been preferred mediums on social media, but video seems to have jumped to first place. Facebook now auto-plays videos (silently) in the News Feed, prompting curious individuals to turn on their volume and see what the video is all about. Instagram and Snapchat now have video capabilities as well. Hashtags. The brains behind this campaign did a great job of using the power of social media. They created their own hashtags- #IceBucketChallenge and #StrikeOutALS- which soon became trending topics.
  • Hashtags help to drive engagement and since most social media channels use hashtags as an identifier, you can run cross-channel campaigns with one common identifier.
  • Make it sharable. Having people “tag” (nominate) friends and family members to continue the challenge is a genius tactic. This is a fun and interactive way to spread the word on social media naturally – beyond just asking people to “like” or “share”. Each video posted to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc. brings another voice to this amazing cause.

3. Keep It Simple

The Ice Bucket Challenge is so easy, a caveman could do it! From the concept and rules to the materials needed to execute, every element of this campaign was simple and straightforward. Too many rules or steps to participate can quickly turn off your audience and deter participation.

Sounds easy right? While many marketers are already aware of these essential components, they often forget to include them in their campaign efforts.

Have you participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? What other components are essential for a successful social media campaign? We’d love to hear your thoughts!