Top 5 Proven Learnings from The Ice Bucket Challenge!!

Top 5 Learnings from The Ice Bucket Challenge!!

Unless you have been asleep for the last month or away somewhere where there is no mobile phone coverage, WiFi, TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Computers, Tablets, or indeed any contact whatsoever with the outside world, you will  have heard of and be familiar with the Social Media Philanthropic Phenomenon  called “The Ice Bucket Challenge”.

Simply put, The Ice Bucket Challenge is where people have freezing cold Iced water poured over their heads with the goal of raising awareness and funds for Motor Neuron Disease (MND) or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis  (ALS) as it is kown in the US.  On completion of the challenge the person makes a donation to the charity and nominates others to take the challenge, video it and share it on Social Media.


Peter Fretas is credited as the originator of the challenge, although it now seems more likely  to have come from a dare that was circulating among a group of professional athletes in the US, including golfer Greg Norman.  Those who declined to take the challenge were encouraged to give $100 to charity of the challenger’s choice.

The spark which ignited the current phenomenal viral social media activity around The ice Bucket Challenge came on July 15th 2014 when the presenters of a TV show on the Golf Channel called “Morning Drive” did the challenge live on air.  They then encouraged other celebrities to take the challenge and it all took off from there.


As of August 27th 2014 the phenomenon has hit the following milestones:

  • You Tube – Over 2,330,000 related videos uploaded. (
  • Facebook – Over 28 million interactions and over 2.4 million related videos. (
  • Instagram – Potential Audience of over 95,000,000 (
  • Over US$94,000,000 raised in the United States. (
  • Over €1,100,000 raised for MND in Ireland. (

Why so successful?

As a student of Social Media Marketing I find it fascinating that the Ice Bucket Challenge has become a such a huge phenomenon.  What are the reasons for such a phenomenon?  I would argue the following:

Ego / Vanity

Social Media allows us to show the world how wonderful we are.  How funny, interesting, intelligent, caring, loving, knowledgeable, well traveled, and generally what a great all round person we are.  The Ice Bucket Challenge feeds into this vanity beautifully.  By doing the challenge we are telling the world that we care, we’re a good sport, and we’re up for it! and we have a video to prove it!

Guilt / Peer Pressure

 Imagine being the only one of your friends / family / work colleagues / sports group etc not to accept the nomination and do the Ice Bucket Challenge!  The stigma, embarrassment and ridicule would be horrendous!  We all have our tipping points.  When the fear of not doing something becomes greater than the desire to do it we’ve reached our tipping point.  Many people who have completed the Ice Bucket Challenge have done so simply because they have reached their tipping point and have succomed to the guilt and the peer pressure that this phenomenon has created.

Community Spirit / Feel Good Factor

There is an enormous sense of well being that can be derived from the feeling of being part of a community.  In the case of the Ice Bucket Challenge anyone who takes part feels apart of a worldwide, national, local, family of fellow Ice Bucketeers!  A philanthropic event such as this generates good will towards others who take part.  It enriches people with positivity.  It makes us feel all warm inside (even though we’re soaking wet and freezing cold on the outside!

Affinity with Celebrity

In the same way as people desire to have the same designer golf gear as Rory McIllroy or the desire to wear the the same fragrance as Beyonce, people want to share in the same experience as their heroes.


Instead of  the normal sharing of Holiday Photos or funny gif and memes The Ice Bucket Challenge allowed for the first time for many who took part, the opportunity to share a video.  I would confidently argue that for most participants their Ice Bucket video was the first video that they ever uploaded to social media.  It therefore created a novelty effect, which added to the whole experience.

What can Marketers learn from The Ice Bucket Challenge?

From a marketing perspective, what positives can be drawn from the Ice Bucket Challenge ?  As marketers are there any “pearls of wisdom” that can come out of the phenomenon?  Here are the Top 5 Learnings to be made from The Ice Bucket Challenge:


The old acronym KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid!  Consumers have very short attention spans.  They desire marketing communication to be brief and to the point.  if it’s too complicated the message is at risk of being lost.  The Ice Bucket Challenge is easy to take part in.  It’s instructions are clear and the message is simple.


Pouring ice cold water over someone’s head and watching their reaction is something people have been laughing at in movies, cartoons and Kids TV for decades. Even Laurel & Hardy did it! Laughter creates positive associations.  If you have a brand, product or service that allows  for lighthearted engagement there is no better way to generate this than though laughter.


Earned Media  refers to publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising, the best of which is word of mouth (WOM).  A key element of the Ice Bucket Challenge was nominating others, sharing the video through social media and tagging the people you’ve nominated.  This process generated enormous WOM and was crucial to the worldwide success of The Ice Bucket Challenge.  For Marketers we need to strive to make content and messages that are easy to share across all Social Media Platforms.


The Feel Good Factor.  Making people feel good about a product brand or service can be difficult.  If we as marketers should strive to create content that encourages people to share positive feelings, and to feel a good inside.  This will reflect positively on our client’s product, brand or service.

Call to Action.

A call to action is an instruction to a consumer designed to  illicate an immediate response; for example: “buy in-store today!” or “Register your details online now!” All marketing communication is wasted unless it includes a clear and decisive call to action.  The Ice Bucket Challenge included a clear call to action – Donate!  Sometimes we are so caught up in the creation of quality content that engages the customer, we forget about including a Call to Action in our marketing communications.

I hope that you have found this blog post both useful and insightful.

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