CRACKED: Ice Bucket Challenge Viral Formula

New York Smash Magazine  

Ruslan Kogan LinkedIn BY RUSLAN KOGAN
Bill Gates Ice Bucket Challenge

Bill Gates does the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a fundraising activity that went viral online to support the fight against amyotrophic sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

2013 had Gangnam Style. 2014 has the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Both incredible achievements that have left marketers and promoters around the world wondering: What’s the magic formula? What’s the secret sauce?

Last year, as much as I tried, I couldn’t work out what it was about Gangnam Style that made it get 1 billion views. Yes, it’s very catchy. But so are many other jingles on YouTube. I did, however notice, that babies and toddlers loved Gangnam Style as much as their parents did. Maybe a good way to test jingles is by seeing how babies react?

With the Ice Bucket Challenge, I reckon I’ve cracked it. It’s a great cause and I’d love to see more charities learn from its success. Here are the 5 key elements to the viral formula:

1. Ensure it’s something everyone is capable of doing

If you’re reading this, you have water. You have, or can easily obtain, a bucket. Ice is simple to make or cheap to buy. Pouring it over your head doesn’t take much effort. It might take guts, but not a huge amount of effort (that said, Bill Gates’ Ice Bucket Challenge took it to the next level). So the barrier to entry in participating is very low.

2. Ensure it’s something everyone’s friends would want to see them doing

If someone asked you a couple of months ago whether you would want to see a bucket of ice cold water being poured on a certain friend’s head, what would have you said? Yes, of course. We love a bit of a cheeky laugh at the expense of our friends when they go through a little bit of painless suffering. Sort of like when a mate trips over their own feet and you can’t help but crack out a smile :).

3. Ensure it’s something everyone is proud of doing

Everyone is proud of their achievements after the Ice Bucket Challenge. While it’s a simple task with low barriers to entry, it’s still an accomplishment once you’ve done it. People can’t wait to post the video on their social networks and win likes, comments, retweets and general kudos from their friends. The psychology of gratification (particularly through social) is an important part of the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

4. Ensure it propagates virally

Every person who does it nominates 3 people. A simple viral formula. Assuming everyone is nominated only once, it would take just 20 rounds to reach the entire ‘Internet Connected’ population of Earth (=3^20).

5. Add a bit of guilt and stir

There’s nothing like applying a bit of guilt to a situation to get people to act. Especially if they’ve been nominated publicly by a friend in front of all their friends.

So there you have it. If you can come up with a concept that meets all the requirements above, you’ll have yourself a viral event like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Congratulations to the ALSA for brilliantly executing this campaign for motor neurone disease. By all accounts, it has been an overwhelming success, both in raising awareness, and funds. It is a very worthy cause and organisation, and I hope others can learn from it too.

Now let’s see what 2015 will bring ;).

Head here to donate: #IceBucketChallenge