Kyosei Creative | Viral Campaigns: How ALSA Won Big by Enabling Others to Create Content

Viral Campaigns: How ALSA Won Big by Enabling Others to Create Content

The big social media story of 2014 so far has been the ubiquitous ALS ice bucket challenge. It’s significant for several reasons. For one, donations to the ALSA topped $100 million (up from $2.7 million in the same time period in 2013). Interesting from a marketing perspective is just how big it caught on. This can probably be attributed to the viral design of the challenge (in-built invitations with a time limit), and to the celebrity involvement. Everybody who’s anybody, from Bush to Bieber, has dumped ice on their head and donated to ALS.

The coolest thing about the challenge (other than the ice) was that it enabled celebs and friends to make their own fun content. It provided a simple, limited framework, and allowed them to be creative with it. And some of the celebrity ice bucket challenge videos were pretty damn creative. (See, perhaps, Dave Grohl’s Carrie homage.) The content celebs created allowed them to (1) flaunt their creativity, (2) associate themselves with a good cause, and (3) gave a current and relevant reason to make contact with fans.

Can I do something like this for my brand?

Similar things have already been done on smaller scales, with less celebrity involvement. And we’re certain to see some copycat attempts in the coming months. But can your brand get big doing a similar thing?

Probably not. Celebs are less likely to associate themselves with a for-profit brand without getting paid. ALS works because it’s a noble cause. Unless you’re working for a high-profile social, environmental or medical organization, we doubt you’ll convince presidents, tech billionaires and pop singers to suffer for your pleasure.

However, you might be able to profit from this nugget: if you can give people a framework that enables them to produce cool stuff for you, you could enjoy some modest (or even major) success.

I just doubt many people will sign on for the McDonalds Hot Coffee Bucket challenge…

Who was the mastermind behind the ALS ice bucket challenge?

Nobody, really. That’s what’s both awesome and totally frustrating about it. The ice bucket challenge was already a thing, with people dumping ice on their heads and challenging others to donate; it’s just that one version that gave money to the ALSA caught on, and the ALSA jumped on the opportunity. Often, amazing marketing is less about planning and design, and more about agile response to possible opportunities.

Photo: Andrey Smirnov/Dollar Photo Club.

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