Going Viral: Deconstructing the #IceBucketChallenge

Last week, like three million people before him, my husband took part in the ALS #IceBucketChallenge.  Rather than complete the challenge quietly at home and without a lot of fuss, he set a fundraising goal for his co-workers and when it was met, agreed to let one of them dump a bucket of ice and water on his head. 

These simple acts of activism happened again and again across the world with people of all ages and from all walks of life taking part.  At last report, over $100 Million was raised to support the research and eradication of ALS.

It’s a great story.  One we’re all a little proud to be a part of, but as a marketer, the question we should have is “Why?”

In creating this challenge and the associated social media campaign, what did the ALSA get right?

  1. Sense of fun and accountability: It would be easy to ignore the challenge of dumping a bucket of ice on your head if you knew no one would know one way or the other.  With the use of social media outlets such as Twitter and FaceBook to host the evidence, there’s accountability.  And more than that, we keep it going because we like to see our friends do crazy things.
  2. Something we can feel good about: No, college kid who tried to piggy back, we aren’t going to fund your tuition as much as we believe in education.  But to think our dollars and our goodwill are going to a cause that’s worthy and that will benefit the entire human race.  That’s something.
  3. Simple concept:  Take these steps and pass it on.  It’s like a chain letter from the 80s, but oh so much more fun.
  4. Global community: We want to be part of something.  We will opt in to do something when we feel that we belong to the group. We don’t have to have ALS or know someone who does to imagine ourselves in that situation, and it feels good to be included in the group that will help do something about it.

Every marketer dreams of the kind of success this challenge has had when they launch a social media campaign.  The truth is, it’s not that easy to get as worked up about a new pair of running shoes or flavor of toothpaste.  People aren’t going to send your latest corporate video viral because they aren’t interested in what’s in it for you.  They’re not even really interested in what’s in it for them.  But if you find a way to align your company with socially responsible programs for the good of humanity…well, that’s a different story isn’t it?

So, what do you do well?

But more importantly, what good do you do?

 

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