What the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Teaches About Online Marketing

icebucketTorrents of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos have soaked several people’s Facebook news feeds for the past couple of weeks, causing some irate naysayers to loudly complain that all the fun does nothing to help the cause. However, the haters’ chides have been drowned out to the cool tune of over $41 million in funds for research on Lou Gehrig’s disease, all raised from the Ice Bucket Challenge.

But how? What was it about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that made it not only go viral? What can businesses learn about online marketing from the surprising phenomena?

“For marketing, the challenge has shown us just how quickly a single message, a single campaign, can spread across the world,” says Jeremy Simpson of Suburban Marketing. “That’s why the concept of ‘social, mobile, local’ is such a powerful marketing tool. Human beings are social animals and we truly like to share with one another. We like to feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.”

According to Robert Tuchman, the founder of Goviva, it took off in part because it was fun. Who doesn’t want to watch people getting soaked in a bucket of ice water? Online content has to be engaging, which means it also has to be enjoyable.

Tuchman also points out that it was appealing to people from all walks of life, which let celebrities get in on the fun. Stars like Ben Affleck and Justin Bieber wound up participating. By lending their star power to the cause, the ALS Association got de facto endorsements that might have otherwise cost billions of dollars.

Forbes points out that the ALS Association followed the KISS principle, which states to “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Simple designs are often more effective than complicated ones, after all. The Ice Bucket Challenge’s rules were easy — accept the challenge or make a donation. Should you accept, you have to film yourself getting soaked in ice water, share it on social media, and challenge a few others. That’s it.

Though the overwhelming success of the Ice Bucket Challenge probably can’t be duplicated, it did show everyone that a social media marketing campaign needs to be fun, universally appealing, and simple. With those ingredients, the chances of going viral are much better.