Turning Worthy Causes Viral: the Ice Bucket Challenge

To start this off, here’s a link where you can donate to the ALS Association.  When you want to turn a worthy cause viral, keeping the actual cause at the forefront is the most important part.  And now that we’ve got that covered, let’s talk a little more about the powerhouse that is accidental viral marketing.

The idea of “going viral” online does not usually yield positive outcomes, or even negative outcomes.  For many, when a video goes viral, it’s something innocuous or seemingly random like a baby dancing to 2Chainz or something that had a more creative effort put behind it like the musicless music video for YMCA.  And although the posters can earn some internet fame for however long their production stays relevant, eventually it fades into obscurity and becomes a reference that people may still use, but don’t know the complete origin story.

But this campaign, which was largely spread through Facebook, not only boosted awareness of ALS (otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), but increased donations to the association.  Unlike previous, smaller campaigns (does anyone remember when you had to post a status about what color bra you were wearing to promote awareness of breast cancer?) this was much more visible and had celebrities participating.  So what made this different?

It was the nature of the Ice Bucket Challenge.  It gave you a chance to not only call out friends on Facebook, but post videos doing something goofy and altogether harmless.  Something about the word “challenge” right next to an unpleasant activity really gets people going, so using it to promote awareness of a disease like ALS finally puts the idea of physical challenges to good use.


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