What do Richard Branson, Justin Timberlake, Oprah, Gwen Stefani, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and many other celebrities have in common? They’ve all been “challenged” by their friends to participate in the ALS Awareness Ice Bucket challenge. If you’ve been watching the trending feeds with video postings on Facebook with people participating in this challenge, then chances are you are now aware of ALS — otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Exciting to see increased awareness and over $4 million in funding going to the ALS Association. And, there’s something we can all learn from what is happening. In my view, this campaign is brilliant (from a branding and marketing perspective). Whether you LOVE or HATE the campaign, or whether you support ALS or not, there are three things that works about the campaign:

  • SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT. Distinct from using a heart-wrenching or fear-based approach, this campaign involves people in a fun, playful, and a less obvious method, i.e. asking people to pour a bucket of ice over their heads. I hadn’t read the guidelines for participation when I first found out about the challenge, but I noticed video uploads were part the social engagement — perhaps, a method to show “proof” of participation.
  • POSITIONING & FRAMING. Noticed how the marketing didn’t say “DONATE TODAY” or “DONATE NOW”? In fact, it is positioned as a “challenge”. In doing so, we are more likely to pay attention. Plus, framing it as a “challenge” makes the campaign more appealing and effective. Another interesting framing technique is asking people to “nominate” other people. Nominations instead of referrals? Very clever. And, also distinct from the usual  approach of asking to “share this post” or “become a sponsor”.
  • URGENCY OF CALL-TO-ACTION. Creating a 24-hour window to accept the challenge did one of two things. First, the 24-hour window forces the nominee to take action immediately (well, at least within 24 hours) — or there are consequences. Second, it encourages the rest of us to be on the lookout for the nominee “accepting” the challenge. Again, creating continuity of engagement. On the little that I spend on Facebook, I’m checking my news feed to see who’s next in accepting the challenge.

Is the campaign effective? Please share your thoughts with us below!

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