Back to Blog
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS was something not as well known a few years ago. With the help of social media and an outstanding campaign, the world was taken by storm with knowledge and donations for ALS. This campaign was called the ice bucket challenge and was one of the most successful public relations campaign of the past couple years.
The ice bucket challenge was a social media movement that was participated in by the common person or even top celebrities such as Chris Pratt, Oprah, LeBron James, Ben Stiller and many more. It was in a video format posted across social media outlets such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. It consisted of dialogue commonly telling the viewer who nominated the person in the video and then someone dumping a bucket of ice water on the person followed by the victim nominating another three contestants. The end goal was for the person who did the challenge to donate to the cause.
Contagious by Jonah Berger describes how things “catch on.” These elements include social currency, triggers and emotion. The ice bucket challenge contained all of these elements.
To begin, there was an exchange that begins this snowball effect. In order to even be involved in this movement, you must be nominated; most of the time people were nominated by a friend, co-worker or family member. Nominated members would feel a sense of obligation to the nomination. Whether they donated to the cause or not, the contestant would still be posting to their social media promoting interest in all of their followers – people caught on.
The biggest element to this campaign was the trigger. Dumping a bucket of ice water on your head is exhilarating, it was something that a contestant knew wasn’t going to injure them or harm them in anyway. I would compare this trigger to a the feeling before someone would feel before boarding a roller coaster – nerves before the big drop, but a relief as soon as it is done; the same feeling that is usually felt before ice water is dumped onto a contestant.
Behind all of this is the emotional appeal. ALS is a highly detrimental disease, one that does not have a true cure just yet. The emotional appeal comes from the amount of lives lost from this disease and the statistics behind it all. Not only was the contestant submitting to a challenge but they were promoting a bigger cause to help others, an act of selflessness. Being charitable will make the contestant feel good about their decision to take the challenge.
All of these elements made this public relations campaign “catch.” In fact, the ALS association 2013 campaign collected about $2.8 million dollars for research. As of 2014, it had collected over $100 million dollars. In the end, it raised a whopping $220 million dollars. This money could help anywhere from 12,000-15,000 people in the US who reportedly live with ALS. With a little help of some ice water, this world will make progress with a still fairly unknown disease.