8 Game-Changing Marketing Lessons From The ALS ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been one of the most popular viral marketing campaigns of the year, already raising over $ 22 million for ALS research and becoming a social media sensation. Celebrities taking part in the Ice Bucket Challenge include famous athletes, top politicians, Hollywood stars and business icons such as Bill Gates. BY all accounts, the Ice Bucket challenge is viral grassroots marketing at its best. Inc Magazine helps break down some key elements of why this campaign has taken off so quickly and successfully:

1. Anyone can participate.

The target audience is anyone with a smartphone and a social media account–which is just about everyone these days. Aside from the cost of ice, your time, and any donation you make, the entry to be a part of the awareness campaign is essentially free, and the humiliation factor is extremely minimal, which again makes it pretty much a no-brainer for most people.

2. Very simple rules to the “challenge”

All you need is some sort of container, some means of making water freeze, a bunch of people to challenge to keep the movement going, a few hashtags (more on that below) and about 15 minutes to set up and do it. If you don’t want to post a video, go to the ALS website and donate.

3. Compressed time period to complete challenge

If you are challenged, you have 24 hours to accept and complete it. This is a key reason this spread so quickly, as a reasonable sense of urgency is created for those who have been publicly called out to participate.

4. Perfect time of year

It’s summer, you are outside a lot, and it’s hot. Who doesn’t want an excuse to cool off or publicly douse their kids with ice water? Late July and early August also tends to be vacation time for people, so it’s easier for even the busiest people to justify making themselves more available to do a stunt like this, particularly with a time limit attached.

5. Strong, focused, vocal core base linked to a larger vocal base

This campaign turned from a generic summer charity challenge to an ALS-focused campaign in late July, when members of the Boston College community and Team FrateTrain adopted the practice as a creative way to raise awareness in the Boston area of BC alumnus (and former captain of the baseball team) Pete Frates’s battle against the devastating disease. Because these groups overlapped,, they created a domino effect that quickly spread throughout New England and led to national exposure.

6. Simple, but descriptive hashtags

In today’s SEO-driven world, this campaign was able to effectively spread two easy-to-remember hashtags used to categorize the posts: #IceBucketChallenge and #StrikeoutALS. Essentially, these two hashtags alone describe why the campaign exists, and has made it extremely easy for people to search and learn more about the effort, watch videos posted from the challenge, and ensure that others are aware of their participation.

7. The “social currency” element

Once fast-moving campaigns like this start to gain traction and notoriety, frequent users of social media naturally want to get on the bandwagon to show they are part of the crowd. Instead of waiting to get challenged, they may post their own videos proactively. It becomes cool to be involved.

8. Small expectations from the start

When members of Team FrateTrain issued the Ice Bucket Challenge to their base, they did not set out to make it a huge viral hit, nor did they have a large fundraising goal in mind. They simply wanted to raise awareness about ALS and Pete’s fight among as many people as they could. By focusing and executing on that goal alone, the rest happened organically.

To learn how to incorporate some of lessons we have learned from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and provide a boost to your growing business, read the full article on Inc Magazine here.

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