Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Why Has The Ice Bucket Challenge Gone Viral?

The ice bucket challenge provides a unique analysis of digital marketing
If you’re a social media aficionado, you will more than likely have come across a video of a friend or a celebrity dousing themselves with a bucket full of ice and water. Wondering whythey’re doing this? It’s a viral stunt raising much-needed funds for motor neuron disease (MND). The awareness and funds are fantastic to see – but looking at it from a social media marketing angle gives those of us in the industry an insight into what works on our favourite social networks. Why is it that throwing a bucket of cold water over yourself is gone viral?

It’s emotive

Traditionally, the most successful marketing campaigns will strike a chord with us. Something which makes us sad, happy, excited or curious will be more attention grabbing than the humdrum, run-of-the-mill marketing campaigns. The ice bucket challenge takes us from sadness to happiness. When you hear the background to the story (former sports star Pete Frates, who is almost completely paralysed with the disease), it hits home about the seriousness. Looking at the videos, though, goes to the other end of the spectrum – laughter. Focusing on emotions can be a sure-fire way of increasing the effectiveness of your campaigns.

It has a compressed time period

With the ice bucket challenge, you get nominated and you have just 24 hours to complete the challenge, upload your video and send out your nominations. This gives the campaign a sense of urgency – it requires immediate thought and action within a set time period. It not only means that the action will be completed by the nominee quicker, but it also means that the message is spread faster on social media. This undoubtedly helped the campaign go viral and gives other digital marketers a lesson to learn from.

A snappy hashtag

Hashtags are the driving force on Twitter and, increasingly, on other social networks. Keeping a hashtag short, snappy and attention grabbing is key to pushing a campaign forward. That’s exactly what the ice bucket challenge did. The hashtag? Simply #IceBucketChallenge. Who could see that on Twitter and not wonder what it was? A hashtag like this is descriptive and immediately makes you question it.


This is perhaps that bit easier for a charity marketing campaign but it gives us food for thought. The ice bucket challenge directly encourages consumer participation. Why is this useful? Like some of our previous points, it increases the likelihood that your message will spread quickly and organically. The other thing to take from this, though, is that we felt directly affected by the ice bucket challenge. Of course you will sit up and take more interest if you or your friend is nominated – it’s only natural!

A fun call to action

Okay, it’s not the most fun thing you can imagine, having a bucket of ice and water thrown over you, but the videos are entertaining. It’s a two-man job, participating in this campaign – one to throw the bucket and one to video the challenge. The group dynamic in all of the videos is apparent which adds to the entertaining value of the campaign. Having a fun CTA is something that doesn’t work for every marketing campaign – but when it works, it really works.
The ice bucket challenge is showing no signs of slowing down – and has already raised $15.6 million in the US alone – a staggering figure. It takes its inspiration from a similar campaign – the no makeup selfie one that went viral earlier in the year. This campaign looks set to go a step further than the no makeup selfie one – probably due to the fact that it’s more gender neutral. From a charity perspective, it’s raising awareness and funds. For digital marketers? It teaches us a thing or two about social media marketing. Here is one of the most popular ice bucket challenges to date; from the founding father of social media himself, Mark Zuckerberg…

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