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The Coolest (literally) Experimental Awareness Campaign I've Seen in Awhile

Experimentalist 08-15-14

The Coolest (literally) Experimental Awareness Campaign I've Seen in Awhile

[ Edited ]

Check out the video below for Dan Siroker and Optimizely employees doing the #ALSIceBucketChallenge


The hunt for virality with social awareness campaigns is a fierce one.


Causes, businesses, and even individuals jockey for eyeballs, dropping absurd amounts of content into our feeds daily, hoping to elicit a exponential response.


Frequently, the ask is simply a watch/read/view and share - but sometimes the ask is even bigger.  And perhaps its for this reason that the #IceBucketChallenge supporting ALS Awareness is so successful.


On or around July 16 (according to wikipedia) the first Ice Bucket challenge was recorded.  The premise and rules are pretty simple, see the wikipedia entry here.


As of writing this post Wikipedia notes that since July 29, more than 70,000 new donors have donated money to the ALS Association.


One way I enjoy analyzing viral campaigns is through the lens of a framework developed by an old classmate and friend of mine, Jonah Berger, who has studied the matter at length and has distilled virality down to 6 key principles.  As with the best viral campaigns around, this campaign appears to have them all:


  • Emotion - The aim is supporting a great cause and giving an emotional connection between people living with ALS, ALS solutions champions, and those just learning about ALS for the first time.

  • Practical Value - The campaign provides practical value in the form raising awareness and giving people a fun way to get in on the action through donation, challenge acceptance, or both.

  • Triggers - The challenge is self perpetuating and exponential as when one completes the challenge they challenge 3 others who have 24 hours to get it done.

  • Social Currency - People posting their challenge get credit for being a part of finding solutions for ALS along with celebrities and famous personalities, which adds to the cool.

  • Public - the campaign has major visibility in all of the major social channels, and has garnered television notoriety with celebrities taking to airwaves to show their support by executing the challenge on live tv.

  • Stories - the different approaches range from very basic, to far more extravagant and have generated a means by which people can get creative with how the take on the challenge.


But one of the things that strikes me about this is that its so much more than asking someone to share a piece of content.  Its asking them to create it, which involves a small amount of set up and commitment.  I ponder whether this is an additional reason for the success.  Its easy enough to click a button and pass something along, but maybe when you ask more of someone the likelihood that they feel the value becomes greater.  


One thing thats undeniable, is that its worked well for ALS.  In fact, we were challenged yesterday, and jumped at the chance to particpate and perpetuate the growth in awareness and fundraising.  Take a look:



Let me know what you think - what other ingredients make up the best viral awareness campaigns.  And if you have accepted the challenge, share your videos in the comments below.


Amanda 08-17-14

Re: The Coolest (literally) Experimental Awareness Campaign I've Seen in Awhile

Social currency is a big one in this challenge, for sure. Thanks for posting this story! The video turned out great and well worth sitting in wet/freezing jeans for the rest of the day!
AdamA 08-19-14

Re: The Coolest (literally) Experimental Awareness Campaign I've Seen in Awhile

Even more interesting that the "ice bucket challenge" started out as a challenge to donate to the charity of your choice, then morphed into an ALS campaign (which is why some of the early challengers don't mention ALS). Great example of a campaign changing as it goes viral!


Has anyone A/B tested the 6 principles to help a campaign go viral? (Maybe Upworthy?)