Why The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Is So Successful


ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is arguably the most successful social media campaign EVER (If you have been living under a rock for the past month THIS is what we are talking about). It has raised over $100 million dollars for ALS research this month (compared to just $2.5 million raised in August of 2013), and many believe it is only getting started. All this success stemming from such a simple idea is a remarkable achievement. But what every marketer should be asking themselves is how did this happen and how can I emulate its success?

First off, it is important to note that neither the ALS Association or their PR company created the idea. Its origins are somewhat unclear, but many believe it first started to gain momentum on July 31st, when former Boston College baseball team captain Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, challenged several friends and celebrities, including NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, to take the challenge.

Matt Ryan followed through with the challenge and as keeping with the rules, nominated others to take the challenge, too. Pretty soon you couldn’t go on Facebook without seeing some friend or celebrity dousing themselves in ice water in the name of charity.  I mean…


So, from it’s humble beginnings to a national sensation, how did the Ice Bucket Challenge become the most effective social media campaign of all time?


The best ideas are always the simplest, and what is more simple than pouring a bucket of ice water on your head? It’s not controversial, offensive, or difficult. It’s the right amount of undignified, and it’s funny.


Everybody wants to feel important. And we want to share that feeling of importance with the world. The Ice Bucket Challenge gives us that opportunity. It allows people to feel good about themselves for doing something selfless and then being able to share that feeling of goodwill with everyone from friends to big-time celebrities. There is also the added ease of being able to share it so easily share it on social media and challenge others. Essentially, it leverages all the best aspects for why people use social media.


ALS is one of the most ruthless diseases in the world. Over 2-5 years, it slowly atrophies your entire body from the top down until you can barely move your muscles and you choke to death. It kills 100% of  people that are diagnosed with it. Can you think of a better cause to rally around than to vanquish such a horrible disease from the face of the earth? No? Well, neither could anybody else, hence this:

So there you have it. Obviously there were many smaller factors that helped the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge become a huge success, but these three attributes are what every single viral-marketing campaign should be predicated upon. It should go without saying that you can’t try something that is too similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge, because the novelty of the act is one of it’s main attractions. Rather, conform to these guidelines and use them to create your own unique idea. You should also pay attention to what other people are trying. Creating the next Ice Bucket Challenge won’t be as easy as soaking yourself in water, but it could be just as worthwhile.