What I Learned From Getting Suckered Into Completing The ALSA.org #ICeBucketChallenge

A couple of days ago, I mentioned on Twitter that I had been called out by a tech journalist, friend and quintessential Twitter troll, Andrew Yew, to do the ALS #IceBucketChallenge, along with another tech journalist, Vernon Chan.

ALS_1_edited

 (Photo credit: Vernon Chan)

For the uninitiated, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge basically involves dumping a bucket of ice water on someone’s head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research. (Now, as with all things there will be those who have a different opinion, which I fully respect. In our case, we felt that this message from a family coping with ALS helped us decide to move forward in our support for this initiative)

The three of us decided to take up the challenge – but, inspired by the genius that is Charlie Sheen, we added a twist. We asked for donation pledges a minimum of RM100 per bucket, hoping to raise at least RM1,000 for ALSA.

(No) Thanks to some very generous friends from my end (who clearly felt that it was money well spent to see me suffer) as well as my neurotic overachieving personality, I (unfortunately) managed to raise RM800 – which meant I had to douse myself with eight buckets of ice water.

Altogether, it was all in good fun. Along with our personal contributions, we successfully completed the challenge raised a combined total up to RM1,800, surpassing our intended goal!

So, for your viewing pleasure, here’s my #IceBucketChallenge video:

What I learned

Now, being the marketing geek that I am, here are several reasons why I think the ALS Ice Bucket Challenged worked the way it did – so much that it even crossed over to having Asian celebrities, politicians, and industry captains participating.

1) It was fun

Whether you were watching the video or participating in the challenge, it was a pretty fun experience (unless you have to pour eight buckets!). Never underestimate the value of simple fun to get that buy in – whether it’s to share a video, participate in the activity or to even be challenged to donate to a good cause. And, by the way, it needs to be genuinely “fun” for the participants – and just for the brand/organization.

2) It was easy

The idea was very simple: Dump a bucket of ice water over your head or donate to Alsa.org, then nominate three others to do the same, all via video. Easy to do, easy to communicate, easy to pass on the challenge. Too much “viral” campaigns have complicated T&Cs (the infamous “terms and conditions apply”) that more time is spent trying to explain the activity and its expected outcome, than actually participating in the initiative itself. Don’t let legalese and marketing-speak crowd out beautiful simplicity.

3) It was involving

The Ice Bucket Challenge worked because it involved people nominating people – which is essentially your good ol’ “Word Of Mouth” marketing at work. The transmission by participation meant that the people involved would be responsible for getting others involved – basically serving as “sneezers” spreading an ideavirus” (to borrow Seth Godin’s parlance). Another thing to note: while the attention to the campaign was greatly accelerated globally when big names got involved, what truly got people participating was the direct challenge from someone they knew. While it mattered that the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were lending their names to this great initiative, it was the “people nominating people” bit that helped the movement gain traction and become that elusive “viral campaign” that many aspire towards.

In the end, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is clearly going to be this year’s marketing, digital and social media case study. Plenty of people are already starting to analyze the campaign and attempt to reverse engineer it.

In fact, Samsung even attempted to capitalize on it…

… and, in board rooms across the world, marketing teams are hoping to dream up the next “Ice Bucket Challenge” for their brands and organizations:

Still, say what you will, though, the campaign worked. The latest update from Alsa.org (as of this writing) shows that the campaign has raised a staggering US$70.2 million.

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