Top 5 Reasons ALS #IceBucketChallenge Went Viral

Modern Marketing
Social Influencer Marketing


If the CEO’s of Microsoft and Facebook have taken the ALS #IceBucketChallenge, it has officially hit the peak of the Hype Cycle.

Like all viral content, the video trend seemingly sprang from nowhere in the first two weeks of August, 2014. In our newsfeeds, on Instagram, on Vine: everywhere we scrolled we were inundated with videos of people’s shivers and shocked expressions as they had ice water dumped on them, always accompanied by a 24-hour challenge “I challenge my (insert friends names here) to participate in the ALS ice bucket challenge.” Social users challenged by their friends had 2 options, donate $100 to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (commonly called ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) or take the #IceBucketChallenge themselves. Since July 29, the #IceBucketChallenge has raised $4 million.

What is it about the #IceBucketChallenge that causes us to watch video after video of celebrities, friends, family, and colleagues uncomfortably dousing themselves in chilly water?

#1 Call To Action:

The call to action and desired results are clear (who and when), funny and its for a good cause.

#2 Its Truly Social:

Influencers are doing it, your friends are doing it, which makes it “socially acceptable”. The “tagging” of people make it a great multi-level marketing campaign.

#3 Creativity:

While the guidelines are clear, there is a “one-up-mens-ship” ability here to provide your own take on the challenge.

#4 Ego:

People use social to show off that they are doing something good and a chance for 15MBs of fame.

#5 It’s Visual:

Short video snippets with inline play on Facebook make for an easy viewing.

  • We are always fascinated by the trivial ways people make themselves physically uncomfortable, when they do not cause real harm (think of watching a friend eat a habanero pepper).
  • Social media typically consists of only the best moments on display, so users sharing in an equally uncomfortable moment levels the playing field and makes us all realize, you’re not in this alone. not the first one not afraid to share
  • The #IceBucketChallenge brings out the strongest emotions, compassion, love, excitement, happiness, shock, and anticipation in social users everywhere.


What can brands learn from #IceBucketChallenge?


Not all campaigns are about revenue, numerous campaigns are about engagement and buzz. Videos of people we know or idolize getting buckets of icy water dumped on their heads is what dreams are made of! (Admit it, how many times have you thought about this happening to someone you know. On more than one occasion.)


Would you rather… Get a bucket of ice cold water dumped on your head for all the world to see, or donate $100 in privacy? I bet considering these options never crossed your mind until the #IceBucketChallenge.


Social users don’t log onto Facebook and think today I will dump a bucket of ice water on my head. But with social tagging, and the issued challenge recorded for all to see awareness was gained, they considered the options, and viola, the intent was there.


The #IceBucketChallenge gives social users a call to action with 2 choices, and with social users as their witness, they must choose 1. One thing we all know to be true is social users hold each other accountable, and the number of participants will sky rocket.


Letting others know about the experience is everything! The #IceBucketChallenge is successful because it shows a live experience start to finish with more more than a recommendation to their audience, a challenge. And who wants to be known as someone who backs down from a challenge?!

So, who’s to say whether Zuckerberg or our own CEO Dennis O’Malley had a more entertaining #IceBucketChallenge video?

Written By

Lauren Gould, Product Marketing Manager with ReadyPulse.