#ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

#ASL Ice Bucket ChallengeAs ice buckets keep being dumped over my fb friends every day, I want to look at the #ALS #IceBucketChallenge phenomenon from the marketing angle and talk about what makes it a successful campaign.

First and foremost, there is a deep meaning to the campaign, and a very meaningful face – that of Pete Frates, the former Boston College baseball star and the inspiration behind the campaign. Although there is conflicting information whether the idea itself was Pete’s (Wikipedia), what’s undeniable is his involvement in Social promotion of the challenge from the very start. It is also clear that his personal story of a young, successful athlete getting disabled by #ALS, his reputation and friendships in the world of sports, got athletes to champion the challenge first in Boston, then in the NorthEast, and then Nationally.

#ASL Ice Bucket Challenge


But the challenge went far beyond the world of sports and became the viral sensation of summer 2014 in a matter of weeks. It also delivered outstanding financial results. On August 16, 2014, the ALS Association announced that it had received $11.4 million in donations compared to $1.7 million during the same time period (July 29 to August 16) in the prior year. These donations came from both existing donors and 220,255 new donors to the Association (Wikipedia/Ice Bucket Challenge).  Several principles of effective brand building were beautifully executed in this campaign, contributing to it’s huge success.

Importantly – the proposition is simple. Within 24 hrs of being challenged, one has to create and share a video of dumping a bucket of ice water on their head, or donate $100 to #ALS. Then the challenge gets passed onto 3 friends. This simplicity takes out the mental barrier ‘will I be able to do it?’ – everyone can get to a bucket, some ice water, and a simple camera- but leaves the emotional challenge ‘I WILL be able to do it!’ and pride of completing the physical act, and driving awareness of a good cause.

The viral nature of nomination where every participant passes the challenge onto multiple friends ensures exponential growth and the immediacy of tagging new participants via social channels keeps the fast pace. Social channels also ensure transparency making everyone who is challenged, accountable to their circle of friends. The pressure is on!

The pressure to act stays on via time limit of the call to action. 24 hr limit does not leave much room to linger and keeps participants focused: do the challenge, or donate. Effectively, the options are either to drive brand awareness, or contribute to commercial growth with many choosing to do both.

The process of taking video footage where the challenge gets accepted and passed on is another brilliant brand building tactic. It is akin to making hundreds of thousands of consumer testimonials where brand proposition is clearly stated in the first line, presented  with creativity and individuality by everyone challenged, and then passed forward.

The individuality of each execution and with everyone having a chance to be the star of the pop culture campaign marks another marketing must – driving engagement. Participants in the challenge vary from Patriots, to Bill Gates, Gwen Stefani and, of course, my fb friends… and we all want to know who is next.

#ASL Ice Bucket Challenge


So, #IceBucketChallenge is a very clever grassroots campaign that effectively utilizes key principles of building brands: simple proposition, viral recruitment, win/win ask of building awareness and/or commercial results under tight timing, and creation of massive testimonial campaign around the brand. There is a learning or two here for all of us who work in building brands.

#IceBucketChallenge is clearly a winner. Happily, with a couple more weeks left in the summer, we will see this smart campaign deliver more results for #ALS. I, too, am up for the #IceBucketChallenge.
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Elena PutilinaElena Putilina is a Global marketing executive and master of all things brand that had grown megabrands like OREO, Tide and The Macallan.  She has extensive expertise in finding customer insight and translating it to cutting edge innovation and cross-platform marketing plans that deliver results. Having worked on classic brands and been exposed to contemporary tools, Elena utilizes a blend of traditional (TV, print, experiential, PR) and new (social, digital, viral) tools to build brand equity and drive growth. Elena is currently a Vice President of Global Marketing at NJOY – a global leader in the Electronic Cigarette industry with an unwavering mission to make tobacco cigarettes obsolete. Elena is also a Marketing Mentor at ERA startup accelerator.

Elena Putilina




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