What we’ve learned from the Ice Bucket Challenge

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If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few weeks, then you’ve likely witnessed the undeniable momentum and reach of the ice bucket challenge via your social media network. Benefiting ALS, the challenge calls on participants to dump ice water over their heads, call on others to do the same and donate monetarily to the cause. Still going strong, this challenge has racked in a whopping $88MM from July 29 to August 29, up by over 800% from the $2.6MM raised during this time period last year. Dollars and cents aside, the ice bucket challenge has also increased awareness of ALS, garnered celebrity involvement and created a plethora of authentic content to further perpetuate the message. So, what can us marketers and PR professionals takeaway from the ice bucket challenge as we attempt to create our own successful campaigns? Here are 8 key learnings from the recent ice bucket challenge.ice-b-challenge

1. Make it easy for people to participate.

Almost everyone has access to water, ice and a bucket. Videos are easier than ever for people to upload with the popularity of smart phones. No complicated forms or rules required to participate – just some basic supplies and a whole lot of enthusiasm needed.

2. Peer pressure is REAL.

Friends challenge others in the ice bucket challenge, after they themselves have gone ahead and participated—and these personal invitations are delivered via video and/or social media. No one wants to be left behind and labeled as stingy, cold-hearted or behind-the-times, so many give in to the peer pressure and participate, regardless of whether or not they are vested personally in the cause.

3. Create a sense of urgency.

When challenged, participants had 24 hours to participate. This sense of urgency created momentum and didn’t allow the challenge to fall to the wayside.

4. People like short, lighthearted and easy-to-digest content.

The videos circulating have nothing to do with ALS research, the disease or any other heavy content. Instead, the videos are entertaining, lighthearted and SHORT.

5. Have a pulse on trending conversations about your cause, then jump on board when the time is right.

Interestingly, the ice bucket challenge wasn’t started by an ALS organization. But rather, ALSA jumped on board when they realized they were being tagged by participants naming ALS in their videos. Having a pulse on what is relevant and trending can be the difference between missing an opportunity and capitalizing on one.

6. Never underestimate the power of celebrity endorsements.

People of all ages and all walks of life took part in the ice bucket challenge, including celebrities. These endorsements would have cost billions of dollars for ALSA to contract on their own, but the endorsements were brought in spontaneously via the power of social media momentum.  Global celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey participated in the challenge, using their status as a platform to reach millions.

7. People are still inherently good, and want a reason to feel good about themselves.

The ice bucket challenge offered people a sense of unity and connection, tied to a charitable event and that really resonated well with people. People would not have been so keen on dumping water on their heads if it weren’t for the “feel good” element with a philanthropic twist of the ice bucket challenge.

8. Share on many platforms. Share, share, share!

Don’t limit any campaign to just one platform. The ice bucket challenge videos have taken over all platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, further increasing their reach and propelling the campaign forward.

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