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 In Blog Archives, Consulting Services, Digital Marketing, Non-profit & Cause Marketing

In the past month, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has achieved levels of fame that most brands and non-profits can only dream of having. The challenge calls for people to donate to ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), or be forced to dump ice water on their heads in 24 hours. Most people opt for both. Hilarity ensues.

Agency Entourage Principal Ben Randolph doing the ALS #IceBucketChallenge

I first viewed this hashtag-laden trend as a social media fad (similar to the selfie), something that millenials would buy into and others would laugh off. But, the past week alone showed me just how wrong I was. Celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Anna Wintour, Lady Gaga and Shakira all got drenched for the cause. If that’s not enough for you, videos surfaced of tech giants like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos accepting the challenge in grandiose manners and happily doling it out to others. Today we saw George W. Bush challenge Bill Clinton as a birthday present. 22.9 million dollars later, it appears we have moved far beyond the selfie.

So why did this trend go viral so fast? What increased ALS donations 9x in the same time period from 2013 and attracted 453,210 new donors? Let’s break it down:

1. Power of the Social Network

This wasn’t an email blast, a direct mail piece or a website landing page encouraging you to donate – the #IceBucketChallenge hit social media hard and fast. The smartest move here was tagging. You are required to say who you accepted the challenge from and the three people you would in turn like to challenge. That’s five people tagged in every single video, including you. Imagine how much one person’s content can travel. For many people, they are sharing this on multiple social platforms beyond Facebook, like Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Five people, four platforms. That is 20 first layer engagements before it’s even been posted – just on ONE video. You can see how this spreads.

2. It’s For a Good Cause

Remember that Buzzfeed post, 21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity? Well it’s been viewed over 15 million times. At heart, we love a good story and we’re softies for an engaging way to support the cause. While ALS has no cure right now, it doesn’t get much exposure and bigger and more heavily funded diseases often overshadow it. This served as the perfect way to shed light on something that affects 30,000 Americans at any given time. You can also donate any amount that you want, including $0, which makes the barrier of entry extremely low.

3. It’s Like a Selfie 

It really was a natural next step if you think about it. First photos and videos of others, then photos of yourself and now videos of yourself. And who doesn’t love 15 seconds of fame right? (aka the length of an Instagram video!) Celebrities were going to jump on this in no time.

4. It’s PC

It’s a crazy world out there right now. There has been turmoil in Africa and the Middle East. This challenge is unrelated to politics, non-polarizing, and unites everyone on a common issue.

5. It’s FUN!

I could watch people dump buckets of ice on themselves all day long. Seriously. How do I know? I can’t tell you…but just believe me when I say that my coworkers and I have spent more time than we care to admit just watching funny ice bucket fails. Viral content has to be fun and engaging or else it won’t go beyond the first few shares.

6. It’s Short

If you’re considering a campaign and you’d like to get into user-generated content, just make sure that whatever you push for is short. Our attention spans are shrinking to smaller than that of a goldfish, and Instagram has already decided they will only allot you 15 seconds max, so be sure that you aim for something concise. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge can be done in exactly 15 seconds flat. Anymore and…


FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out. The ALS challenge taps into FOMO like nothing else. Will your friends tag you? Will you complete it? Who will you tag? It’s the ultimate millennial mind game. I can’t remember another time I was this excited to be nominated to donate to a charity.

If you’re looking for an agency who understands the ecosystem of digital marketing and how to curate shareable content, look no further than Agency Entourage. We are a full-service advertising agency in the heart of downtown Dallas. Give us a call at 214-414-3035 or visit us online.

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