Unless you've been living in a dark hole for the past month, you've heard of the "The Ice Bucket Challenge" and are likely one of the millions of people who've uploaded an ice bucket video to social media. The challenge, which involves dumping a bucket of icey water over one's head in an effort to raise awareness for the ALS Association, has morphed into a pop culture phenomenon of the summer, particularly in the United States.
Aside from the viral success of the challenge, it's also succeeded in its mission to raise substantial donations for ALS research. The ALS Association reports that it has received $41.8 million in donations from July 29 until August 21. More than 739,000 new donors have given money to the association, which is more than double the $19.4 million in total contributions the association received during the year that ended January 31, 2013.
So how did the ALS Association get millions of people to take part in this campaign? I've outlined seven key reasons for the Ice Bucket Challenge's success.
1. Don't underestimate the power of social media. The Ice Bucket Challenge has been a solid case in the power of earned media. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have served as perfect platforms for this challenge to take hold, tell a story, and capture people's attention. The challenge is simple, people get it, and it's fun to watch so it's therefore turned into the perfect storm of social engagement during the hot summer months.
2. Don't underestimate the use of video. It used to be that video content in marketing was considered something of a trend, but in recent years it has become something more of a standard technique. In fact, the inclusion of video in emails has been reported to double or triple click-through rates. Let's face it: the Ice Bucket Challenge wouldn't have had a sliver of its current success if it relied on still photos, proving that businesses that incorporate video into their various campaigns are way ahead of companies that don't.
3. The activity plays on emotions. The Challenge not only speaks to the people suffering with ALS, but it plays to our natural competitive spirit. Emotions drive conversation, and the empathy in particular, has been proven to increase social behavior such as helping others, making it the perfect emotion to play upon when marketing for a charity.
4. It has a built-in viral component. The activity requires the participants to challenge at least three other people and gives them 24 hours to complete it. This component has contributed greatly to the viral success of the challenge. The proof is in the numbers: Facebook said last week that 2.4 million videos "related to the ice bucket challenge have been shared" on the social network, and more than 28 million people have posted, commented, or liked a post relating to the challenge.
5. It involves celebrities. The exact origins of the challenge are unclear however it bubbled up to the mainstream and got increased media attention when Matt Lauer dumped a bucket of ice over his head in July on the Today Show in response to Greg Norman's challenge. Today, everyone from Larry the Cable Guy to George W. Bush has participated in the challenge and have gone on to challenge other celebrities.
6. It's simple and fun. Let's face it: Someone dumping icy water over his or her head is fun to watch. The simple and entertaining activity pretty much guarantees you'll get the audience's attention and they'll be clicking the "share" button. Ultimately you'll be enjoying far-reaching exposure with new potential followers.
7. It spans generations. The challenge doesn't exclude anyone. Everyone from Justin Beiber to Ethel Kennedy have taken part in the challenge. I've seen a wide range of Ice Bucket participants in my Facebook feed, from friends' small children to aunts, uncles, and friends' parents.