Can the Success of the Ice Bucket Challenge be Duplicated?

By on August 29, 2014

Now having raised $100 million in donations, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge will definitely top everyone’s Best Campaigns of 2014 lists. Launched by the ALS Association to promote awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, the campaign offers key insights not only into fundraising trends, but social media impact and influence. According to the New York Times, over 1.2 million #IceBucketChallenge videos were shared on Facebook between June 1 and August 13. Additionally, the campaign was referenced over 2.2 million times on Twitter between July 29 ad August 17.

Any marketer would love to gain this kind of momentum around an initiative. In fact, many are already trying to duplicate the phenomenon which is now spreading internationally. Kreps DeMaria Public Relations & Marketing recently launched a “Corporate Cannonball” campaign to support three South Florida charities and encourage other companies to take the plunge and make a donation to a charity of their choice. Documented in a YouTube video, several of the agency’s publicists headed to a local swimming pool and jumped in fully clothed.

But is encouraging people to “get wet” enough to replicate the massive traction that the Ice Bucket Challenge managed to garner? Probably not. So what’s required?

1. One goal, one focus

A clear call-to-action is critical for the success of any marketing campaign, no matter the goal. Consumers are fickle and their attention is fleeting. Make sure that your campaign is laser focused on a central theme or issue, and that your “ask” is specific. When your audience has to think too much, or is given too many choices, it’s likely the wheels on your campaign will start to fall off.

2. Influencer buy-in

Massive campaigns are often fueled by the endorsement of influencers, whether they are celebrities, bloggers with a large following, or individuals with a strong foothold in their industry. The Ice Bucket Challenge began to gain momentum when it was televised on the Golf Channel and then two weeks later on The Today Show.  So when you’re brainstorming ideas for your own campaign, be sure to ask, ” How will we secure influencer buy-in to help drive campaign awareness and visibility?”

#IceBucketChallenge

3. A criticism-proof concept

While the Ice Bucket Challenge has been wildly popular, it hasn’t been without criticism. Some felt the campaign was too silly, while others shamed participants for wasting water. As the campaign brought more light to ALS research, it stirred the debates over animal experimentation and the pro-life movement, which caused many to urge that donations be diverted to organizations other than the ALS Association. But despite the controversy, the campaign was a massive success. So ask, “How do we ensure that our organization is insulated against controversy? Will the campaign succeed despite potential attempts to tarnish our efforts?

4. Lots of people, lots of platforms

Successful campaigns are built by creating synergy across multiple platforms. A Facebook campaign is great, but you’ll likely have more success if you encourage conversations across more than one social media platform. While nearly everyone is using social media these days, it’s clear that certain platforms are more popular among some demographics than others. So if you want lots of people to get involved, then you want to make it easy for them to participate, no matter where they tend to spend the most time in social.

Thinking of creating your own campaign to rival the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge? What do you think it will take to make your campaign a success? Let us know in the comments section!

About John Souza

John Souza is founder and chief strategist of SMMU and Social Media Impact, and is a bestselling business author. He won the 2011 Tech Marketing Awards ‘Social Media Marketer of the Year’ and most recently the About.com Reader’s Choice Award for Best Online Education Site. John has appeared on The Michael Gerber Show, and his business has been honored at the Mashable Awards, Forbes Business Awards and The Stevie Awards.
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