5 Things We Learned about The Ice Bucket Challenge

Written By Janelle Schenher, Account Supervisor


This summer I’m sure many of you have seen videos of The Ice Bucket Challenge all over social media like the one above of our coworker Kelly Zenere getting dosed with ice water. Social media was inundated with videos of friends, family, politicians and celebrities soaking themselves for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

I think we can all agree that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a mega success.  As of last Monday, September 15, it raised $113.3 million for ALS.* Not only did it create millions of dollars and awareness for the disease but it created a social media wildfire!

A viral campaign such as this is a marketer’s dream.  We strive to develop campaigns that catch fire and spread wildly throughout all of out social media channels.

So here are 5 things we learned from the Ice Bucket Challenge to make a successful viral social media campaign:

1. Make it EASY!  It was such a simple challenge…fill up a bucket with water and ice and dump it on your head.  If it’s expensive to do or overly complicated with too many steps, you won’t have the level of participation that you are hoping to get.

2. Timing is everything.  Even for a good cause, not many are going to want to dump a bucket of ice water on their head in the middle of winter.

3. Video reigns.  Everyday 100 million internet users watch an online video.**  The videos from The Ice Bucket Challenge did the following:

  • The video was personal…everyone who was doing this wanted to support and promote a good cause—awareness and donations to ALS.
  • The video got attention because of who was in it…a friend or celebrity, and in some cases, someone in the person’s life is affected by ALS.
  • CTA…in every video the person getting dosed with water calls out other people to take part in the challenge in 24 hours or donate to ALS. This created urgency to complete the challenge right away.

4. The power of numbers.  By calling out 3 people to take part in the challenge, the challenge grew exponentially.  Everyone who participates calls out 3 people and those people call out 3 people and so on.

5. Made the participant feel good.  Most importantly, people felt like they were a part of something big.  They were a part of something important.  It meant something to the person getting dosed with water.  Everyone wants to feel good about themselves.

Next time you are looking to develop a viral marketing campaign, think of how The Ice Bucket Challenge made you feel.  Then think all the things we learned about this campaign to create that same spark.

*Wall Street Journal, 9/15/14

**Digital Sherpa, 2014