At its core, viral marketing is simply the “spread of an idea” that helps market your business or cause. It’s putting material out there that by its very nature attracts attention and discussion.
The Ice Bucket Challenge, initiated to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research can definitely be characterized as ‘viral marketing.’
Facebook, Instgram, and Twitter can be held most responsible for the word of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge spreading. Thanks to those companies, over 16 million people saw both Bill Gates and Charlie Sheen participate in the challenge. And the
Challenge resulted in generating donations worth $15 million in a few weeks.
While it is more than fair to assume a handful of participants saw the ALS Ice Bucket challenge as little more than a popularity video or publicity stunt, many more found a way to make a positive impact.
But what made the Ice Bucket Challenge go viral?
Positive – People like things that put a smile on their face or make them feel good about themselves and their loved ones. (It’s why advertisers use puppies and babies in commercials.) Who doesn’t enjoy laughing with a friend dumping ice on themselves.
Authentic – It’s critical because only when we’re authentic do we have an opportunity to show people we are real and relatable. Much of our population is too young to remember Lou Gehrig even if the disease bears his name.
Compelling – If something is compelling, it tugs at your heartstrings and moves you emotionally. Compelling is important because we aren’t rational beings, we are emotional beings. We tend to use our emotions to guide our decisions. If it’s compelling people will share it. Think about why and when we tend to share things. We tend to share because we care.
Entertaining/engaging – Our society values entertainment and we want to get behind causes that are participatory and fun. If you can first entertain your audience you will then be in a position to keep them engaged and educate them. The ice bucket challenge is public, participatory and allows people to utilize their creativity and freedom of expression.
Simple – If it’s confusing to understand or takes a long time to explain, you’ve lost the audience and you’ll be ignored. Simple is powerful, share it in a way that whether the person is 8 or 80 they can “get it.” Case in point, I’ve seen my friend’s 8-year-old daughter dump an ice bucket over her head as well as a few grandparents do the same and post on Facebook.