The Power of a Viral Sensation: How The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is Changing The Definition of ‘Going Viral’

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Those who spend large parts of their days online will have likely noticed the numerous stories across the web on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s become a viral sensation to rival the Gangnam Style sensation of 2012. Everyone, including athletes, movie stars and regular every day folks is getting involved by having ice poured over their head to promote the ALS cause.
A Large Boost in Funding for ALS Association
The ALS Association of America highlighted the exceptional benefit of the Ice Bucket Challenge by announcing that donations have nearly quadrupled in one week – from $22.6m on August 19th to $88.5m on August 26th. These figures bring the total raised during the campaign to more than 34 times the same period last year.
It’s clear that the viral campaign has been a resounding success. But what are the factors involved?
It Makes Individuals Rise to a Challenge 
We all like to prove our bravery in the face of a challenge. There are two significant factors that make the Ice Bucket Challenge a compelling challenge to take on. Firstly, it’s video-taped. This means that participants can prove their bravery and show their commitment to the cause. Secondly, it allows individuals to challenge others as part of the process. These two factors are critical in the success of the campaign as it draws upon the connection between individuals and challenges them to act bravely to support the ALS cause.
Celebrity Appeal Brings Results
While there are now millions across the globe setting up their home webcams before pouring iced water over their head, it’s important to remember that the craze was started because of the power of celebrity. NBC anchor Matt Lauer was one of the first to take on the Ice Bucket Challenge and capture the attention of mainstream audiences. From there the viral craze took over the internet and shows no signs of slowing down.
The clear fundraising impact of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a lasting net benefit to society of this latest viral campaign. But by reviewing how the campaign momentum built-up over time, marketers can translate its success into long-term performance for their own marketing work. Yet again, marketers can see how appealing to basic human instincts such as pride, compassion and the need to emulate others can help form lasting marketing campaign success.

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