5 Reasons Why I Love the Ice Bucket Challenge

Dumping Ice Water on your own head has never been more fashionable that it is right now, thanks to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  The numbers behind this campaign are simply remarkable, having now raised over $15.6 million from July 29 through August 18, compared to just $1.8 million in that same period in 2013, with much of that coming from 307,598 new donors!

UPDATE: The ALS Association reported that Ice Bucket Challenge donations exceeded $100M in a 30-Day period.

Credit: Elise Amendola, AP

Credit: Elise Amendola, AP

From a Marketing perspective, Here are 5 Reasons Why I Love This Campaign:

Creative and Fun – There is rarely a day that goes by where I am not hit up for a donation from one non-profit or another, and unfortunately, I hate to see so many of these very worthy causes focus their ask around guilting the donor into giving. My family consistently gives 10% of our income (plus other direct volunteer hours) to non-profits so they are near-and-dear to our heart, but it is hard to see many great organizations using guilt tactics.  When I saw the Ice Bucket Challenge come around, it was incredibly refreshing to (FINALLY) see such a fun and creative campaign!  Effective use of creativity is hard, but in this case it helped ALSA stand out from the crowd.

Created with Social Media In Mind – This campaign was designed so that anyone with a smartphone and a social media account (a demographic of those gernto donate to a non-profit) can participate.  The video clips people have created have many the elements that you would want for social media based campaign:

  • Content is short, most just 15 to 60 seconds on average
  • Participation is designed to be quick and easy
  • Content is easily shareable / likeable / retweetable / commentable, +1’able, and favoritable (none of those are actual words, I know)
  • Effective use of a hashtag (there was no “#OMGGiveMoneyOrPourIceWaterOnYourHeadOrBothOrWhatever”)
  • Promotes tagging your friends which effectively increases reach and impressions
  • Gets people to mention the cause by name repeatedly
  • Drove thousands of page views to the a website
  • They were ready to convert web page views into to donations

This was a great example of Inbound Marketing, and was the perfect recipe for a Social Media campaign poised to go viral.

User Generated Content – Part of the genius of the campaign is that individual donors are creating hundreds of thousands of pieces content for the campaign, without the ALSA having to life a finger.  It’s brilliant, and a marketers dream!  The donors are now advocating publicly on behalf of the cause.  No, it’s even better than that… hundreds of thousands of people who have never supported the ALSA before are now evangelizing for them!  Let the scope of that thought marinate in your mind for a minute.  And this content has not just created “awareness,” but it has actually converted sales to the tune of a nearly 10 fold increase in donations.  This was a unique way of re-proving that “Content is King.”

A Sense of Urgency – An underestimated element in what made the Ice Bucket Challenge go viral is the “challenge” part of the campaign.  Participants challenge others with a 24 hour deadline to respond, creating a false sense of urgency.  I say “false” because there is no enforceable punishment if one doesn’t accept the challenge, you just look like a wimp (sorry) in front of your friends.  The impact was that 1) there seems to be very few who did not accept the challenge, and 2) it helped the campaign build and sustain momentum.

Self-Propelled – Add the 4 elements above together and this campaign became self-propelled. Instead of the ALSA having to drag it along to keep it moving, the campaign took on a life of its own and created results that I’m sure well beyond what they had imagined!

These results won’t be easy to duplicate (though many will certainly try), but perhaps other non-profits can learn from the ALSA’s example.  I hope that others can find a way to strike gold, or ice, as well.

UPDATE: Here is my own acceptance of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with some great colleagues!