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Last updated on April 22nd, 2021 at 05:51 pm

Marketing lessons learnt from ALS ice bucket challenge

Unless you have been living in a cave, you must have heard of the ice bucket challenge, benefiting the ALS foundation. This challenge sweeps the nation and pretty much the entire world by storm, dominating social media feeds and news coverage. As of Monday, August 25, The ALS Association has received $79.7 million in donations compared to $2.5 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 25). These donations have come from existing donors and 1.7 million new donors to The Association. This challenge presents a number of valuable lessons that companies and marketers can learn for future campaigns.


1. Personal connection

Having a personal connection or experience makes the cause so much more reachable to a wide population. It all started with Pete Frates , who personally suffers from ALS, and put a video of dumping himself with a bucket of ice and challenging his friends and family with donation. Having a real story behind the cause or campaign is what will get people involved. Another great marketing campaign that is gaining a lot of attention because of its personal connection is the personalized Coca Cola.

2. Simple rules

The rules of the challenge is simple, you either dump a bucket of ice on your head or donate $100 to the ALS Foundation. It is simple and straight forward, no one will get it wrong right? As a matter of fact, a lot of people do both, so in a marketing and financial perspective, this challenge is a win-win.

3. Celebrity participation

When you have President Bush, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, Steven Spielburg, Oprah Winfrey participating the challenge, you know that this campaign has achieved something very special: endorsement from public figures from ex-presidents, corporate executives, entertainers, sports legends and more. The publicity of a known public figure taking part in the challenge is immediately spread across the internet. Bill Gate’s video, in particular, was well thought out:

4. Use of social media

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube played a big part of the success of the ice bucket challenge too. It makes this challenge viral, and certain videos even reached millions of views within a matter of days! Like Charlie Sheen’s video that received over 16 million views:

5. Video is powerful

Had this challenge been a photo contest, it probably will not reach the level of success that it has. With sound, moving images, video becomes a powerful marketing tool, filled with emotions and call for action. It is as real as it gets, way more effective than award winning commercials, because it is real.

The ALS ice bucket challenge has the right elements to become the marketing success of the year. It has the perfect timing, mechanism, and cause to sweep the entire world by storm. What can you learn from this story to apply to your next marketing campaign? Share your ideas in the comments below!


Photo credit: University of Central Alabama


About the Author

Shirley Ho

Shirley is the co-founder of Garuda Promo and Branding Solutions. With a background in print production and graphic design, she specializes in promotional products marketing, creating end-products that aligns with her client's marketing goals and brand strategy.

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