A new social media marketing campaign is causing chills across the country. The campaign known as the “Ice Bucket Challenge” seeks to raise awareness of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The challenge involves dumping a bucket of ice-cold water on your head, posting it to social media and challenging a friend or making a donation to the ALS foundation.
The campaign began in Boston, after former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2012, posted a video to Facebook of him taking the challenge before he encouraged a few people to try it. Shortly after that, the video went viral, spreading beyond Boston to the rest of the country. Since then, a variety of celebrities, newscasters, politicians and everyday citizens have taken the challenge. Most notably, the Kennedy family took the challenge with Ethel Kennedy nominating President Obama. Despite the challenge only being a few weeks old, donations to the Boston chapter of the ALS Foundation have increased by over 1,000 percent, collecting over $1.35 million from July 29 – Aug. 11 versus $22,000 in donations during the same period last year. This isn’t including donations at other chapters across the country.
Obviously, the viral nature of the campaign has led to the incredible increase in awareness of and donations to fight the disease. Ice Bucket isn’t the first social media marketing campaign to go viral. In October of 2010, women posted their bra colors in their Facebook statuses in support of breast cancer. The difference between that campaign and Ice Bucket was that there was no direct call to action or mention of a charity. Ice Bucket has had a direct call to action from the very beginning, but it is not the only campaign to do so. Another campaign with a direct call to action is Movember. Movember is a campaign where men are encouraged to grow moustaches during the month of November in order to support men’s health, prostate and testicular cancer research. Despite the success of these campaigns success they all face a very real risk.
There is the possibility that other non-profit causes and organizations will try and replicate the success of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” with similar campaigns of their own. However, this could lead to an increasingly bored audience who, while they may support the campaign by sharing photos or liking posts, ultimately may not donate or stay engaged. However, one thing that the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has gotten right is the hyper-targeting of personal social networks. Having friends challenge friends to complete the challenge or donate dramatically increases the chances of some kind of action by the nominee because of the perceived social cost he or she could face (i.e., being called out by your friends for not taking the challenge or following through). This competitive aspect is what increased its share-ability across social networks and eventually led to it going viral.
Regardless of the potential pitfalls that this campaign could have for other cause marketing efforts, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” is an effective, brilliant social media marketing campaign, and the money and awareness it raises for ALS cannot be understated. Time will tell if other campaigns try to replicate its success and whether or not the pubic will react to them in the same way.
The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ has even inspired employees here at Tier10. In the video below our Vice President of Digital Joe High takes the challenge with his family.