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Why the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral…

Why the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral…

Looking to make your idea go viral?  Just make your idea “sticky”, that’s what the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge did… I don’t know what was more of a hit this Summer (2014), Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” (since I heard it roughly 38 times during my 40 day Yoga Challenge) or the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Yes, it is a great cause, in fact I didn’t know very much about this little known disease. When I started seeing #icebucketchallenge every where on social media, I Googled to find out more. Some people were complaining that the true mission of ALS was lost because of the entertainment factor of people getting water over their heads.

Even Bill Gates, who I thought had the most creative video, participated.  Naturally Mark Zuckerberg did too.  With more than 19 million views already I’d say that’s some great press.

And while YES I was nominated, I chose to donate instead of getting an ice cold bucket of water dumped on my head.  That aside, I was so intrigued by how viral this whole campaign became. I remembered several years back reading Chip & Dan Heath’s Book:  “Made To Stick” (2007).  I had the good fortune of hearing Chip Heath lecture on the marketing aspects of what makes an idea stick, or in this social media era – what makes an idea go viral. Digging into my book notes, the Heath brothers summary is right on the money.  Here’s what makes an idea “sticky”:

  • SIMPLE:  not dumbing things down – but how complex is dumping a bucket of water… I loved that multi-generations got involved in the events.  How this can relate to you:   What’s your core idea?  What’s the core message?
  • UNEXPECTED:  In July I remember scanning my newsfeed on Facebook and saw this video with one of my Facebook friends doing the Ice Bucket Challenge – yes it was unexpected at the time… an eye pattern break actually – I couldn’t help but stop and play (and then play again)
  • CONCRETE:  paint a mental picture – the expressions on people’s faces was humorous
  • CREDIBLE:  The Challenge was for presumably a good cause: ALS – had the feel good factor
  • EMOTIONAL:  I know I cringed on more than one occasion watching the icy cold water being dumped
  • STORIES:  As people accepted their icy wet fate, they first had to nominate friends, family and in the case of celebrities – you got to see who their friends were… It was story telling in it’s most succinct twitter length way

Good cause = Check!   Fun factor = Check!  Memorable = Check! And now I want to see what other non-for-profits Marketing departments drum up.  The quest for “sticky” continues.

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