An Entire Nation Gets the Chills by Raising Awareness and Money

An impromptu social media campaign unites athletes, politicians, celebrities & your neighbors.

New York JetsWho knew Americans dumping buckets of cold ice water on their heads could set every social network on fire and heat up donations for a good cause? Although the movement has been spurred very organically, with seemingly impromptu videos and personal shout-outs, marketing teams should have predicted the campaign’s success.

The Ice Bucket Challenge started in June, but went viral on July 15 when Matt Lauer brought his challenge to live television. The effort became tied to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, when 200 Bostonians doused themselves in Copley Square, making national headlines.

The setup is simple. After being called out by a so-called friend, a participant steps up to the challenge by donating to a charity or taking an ice cold hit of water, before picking three more victims. According to The Wall Street Journal, The ALS Association raised $7.6 million in donations in just two weeks, up from $1.4 million raised in the same period last year, with some 145,918 new donors.

Bill GatesBut the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS is also about raising awareness, especially for needed research. Currently there is no treatment or cure for the disease that causes nerve cells to break down and die—with 20,000 to 30,000 Americans fighting ALS. By involving anyone willing to complete the challenge on video, the Ice Bucket Challenge proves everyone can be part of making a difference. The awareness aspect of this viral marketing campaign relies completely on individual profiles on social media. Luckily, dumping ice-cold water over our heads plays into American’s social narcissism, much in the same way as selfies posted about every day adventures on Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds. Basically, most people want to take a picture of themselves doing something eye catching to share with their network.

Images surrounding The Ice Bucket Challenge have become very iconic. So far there have been 1.2 million ice bucket challenge videos uploaded to Facebook alone. “In the past 30 days, there have been more than 118,000 tweets mentioning the #icebucketchallenge…with daily tweets of more than 32,000,” according to Sumathi Reddy’s article, “How the Ice-Bucket Challenge Got Its Start,” published in The Wall Street Journal.

Bill Water ChallengeBeyond personal friends, who are tested to prove how engaged and fun they are, celebrities has also been challenged to show how relevant and cool they are by joining in the fun. Famous actors, musicians and athletes, like Oprah, Justin Timberlake, J.J. Abrams, Robert Downey Jr., Lebron James, Martha Stewart, Taylor Swift, Drake and the entire New York Jets team, have posted videos of their chilling moments. The movement has also hit the business community with entire offices and CEOs completing the challenge. For example, Mark Zuckerberg challenged Bill Gates, who in turn claims to have designed a contraption to do the dunk better than anyone else.

I also stepped up to the Ice Bucket Challenge posted on Facebook, with a rush of water from two stories high. *No red solo cups were harmed in the making of this video.

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