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The #IceBucketChallenge is probably the greatest “cause” growth hack ever. In addition to all of the awareness that it has built for ALS, funds raised are up more than 800% from the same period last year. This article in USA today has the latest results.

There are three main factors at work that make the Ice Bucket Challenge brilliant:

1. The “ask” is secondary
2. Pouring a bucket of ice water on your head is silly, easy, painless – but really fun to watch.
3. Curiosity wins

What other factors do you think contributed to the success of this growth hack?

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 5 years ago #

    I did the ice bucket challenge after my brother challenged me. Why I think it works is:

    1) It's novel — enough said.
    2) The wording is brilliant — throwing down a challenge is a powerful call to action. It's not "join me" it's "I challenge you."
    3) It's specific — Cialdini states in his book that the best way to get people to act is to call a person out specifially, instead of a generic call to action for people in general. He uses an emergency situation to illustrate his point, but it works here as well. People are named and only three at a time.
    4) It's viral — three people is the perfect number to help perpetuate the viral spread. It's not one-to-one.
    5) The social proof is overwhelming — just seeing a trusted friend do it is enough to get you on board. The celebrities are great tipping points.
    6) It's fun.

    It's great to see people donating too — I did both, and my son asked to do it twice.

    Here's our video:

  • JN

    Jackson Noel

    over 5 years ago #

    I think there are a few additional parts of the IceBucketChallenge that have been integral contributors to its growth:

    1. Not only is it funny, but it's also for a good cause. Upworthy has a great deck on which types of content goes viral where they say the best content has both 1. entertainment value and 2. an emotional connection: http://www.upworthy.com/how-to-make-that-one-thing-go-viral-just-kidding

    2. It has urgency. Nominees are given 24 hours to accept the challenge, which encourages people to act now rather than waiting or never acting at all.

    3. The nomination is made in public. This isn't like getting an email to donate to a cause so your friend can run a marathon. Asks made in private can be easily ignored. The ask here is made in public on twitter or FB or Instagram for mutual friends and the world to see. It's less about wanting to do it, and more about not wanting the public shame of ignoring it.

    4. Nominations are direct, and only to 3 people. This probably would've gotten far less traction if the meme had no CTA for individuals (i.e. you just post it to Facebook and ambiguously ask all of your 1,000ish friends to follow suit). Plus, since the nomination is only to 3 people, it adds an element of scarcity to the nomination (and thus makes the nominee feel special).

    5. Mass adoption by influencers and celebrities. No matter what you care about, you probably have high respect for someone who has done the IceBucketChallenge. LeBron James, Bill Gates, Oprah. It's only a matter of time before the president does one, right?

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 5 years ago #

      Great points @jacksonjohnson ! It would be really cool if the GH community could get together with another worthy cause and see if we could come up with some potentially transformative growth hacks for them to test. For example I mentioned the idea to the head of product at Khan Academy and they seemed enthusiastic about trying something.

    • UE

      Ugo Eze

      over 5 years ago #

      Absolutely. I think urgency plays a huge role in this. It not something you can do when you have time, its something you have to do within 24 hours or your good friends will call you out for it.

      P.S. The President said hes donating instead of doing the challenge.

    • HA

      Hannah Alvarez

      over 5 years ago #

      I think a huge key here is making the nominee feel special. Everyone who hasn't been challenged yet is waiting for their turn to shine. It plays on people's desire to be included -- and to be the star of the show for a few minutes.

  • SW

    Sol Weinreich

    over 5 years ago #

    I think the challenge and it being double sided meaning i get to challenge someone and they accept my challenge is a big part of the success.

  • LM

    Lincoln Murphy

    over 5 years ago #

    I really dig this campaign... we have a family member that recently came down with/got/was diagnosed with (it's a weird disease) ALS and watching this disease slowly kill her (and seeing her husband and sons simply try to keep her comfortable) has been devastating.

    Any attention - and donations this brings - even if the grand total is less than a couple of luxury cars that some of the stars who have done the challenge have tucked away in a garage that they forgot about... whatever. Attention and donations of any kind are awesome.

    What I'm fascinated by is the story on the origin of the challenge:

    (watch out, the video auto-plays)

    It suggests that this wasn't an ALS-created growth hack; it wasn't attached to any particular charity at first, but you could pick your own. A somewhat popular person (in the circles of those being challenged initially) did the challenge for ALS and they were the sort of the catalyst that took this thing viral while attached to ALS.

    ALS jumping on what appeared to be an organic viral "campaign" that - because of all of the great things in comments here around specific asks, consistency and commitment, etc. - was taking off is the real story.

    The ALS folks basically newsjacked it's popularity to ensure ALS stays associated with it is the "growth hack" from my POV.

    It's awesome to see this thing working... it's great to analyze as growth hackers... but do that after you make a donation if you're able to: http://www.alsa.org/ ... this disease doesn't seem to discriminate (race, gender, net worth) and it will 100% kill you if you get it. That sucks.

  • SF

    stephanie frasco

    over 5 years ago #

    I actually just wrote a blog post about this. I think it's a mixture of the factor and influencer engagement. https://www.convertwithcontent.com/business-learn-ice-bucket-challenge/

  • BF

    Bill Franklin

    over 5 years ago #

    I'm extremely happy this campaign happened, such a wonderful cause and an entertaining way to raise awareness for it.

    But is the ice bucket challenge a growth hack? It looks pretty stretched in this context.

    I'm not sure the campaign is working as well as it could, given the net worth of all the A-list celebrities taking part the amount actually donated has been surprisingly small - https://i.imgur.com/sW1zYOe.png

    Awareness hasn't really been raised about ALS, more for the campaign. I think the campaign was a success, and if you look at the metrics since July 30th there's definitely been a colossal amount donated ($15m!). But compared to say Comic Relief that hosts more b-list than a-list celebrities and still pulls in around £5m GBP on just one night a year. These are super-a-list celebrities like Lady Gaga, Mark Zuckerberg, Justin Bieber and Tim Cook, the combined reach of these dozens of a-listers is over 100m. If we settle on 100m people reached (low estimate) that would make the worth of one viewer just 15 cents.

    Surely a growth hack would be optimising the campaign so that celebrities are encouraged to let viewers know where they should send their money. I doubt if even 15% viewers know what ALS stands for, this is Lady Gaga raising awareness for the cause: http://instagram.com/p/r1uvbnJFNv/.

    It's also a pretty unsustainable effort - awareness was raised for the campaign - not the disease. It'll be hard to pull a stunt like this again.

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 5 years ago #

      I really don't think it's a stretch to call it a growth hack. It leveraged the interconnected user base of Facebook and all the triggers described by other commenters to increase donations 800%. The celebs who participated weren't involved with ALS before, and we're essentially drawn in by the campaign to participate. I personally have heard ALS mentioned at least 100x more in the last couple weeks than in my entire lifetime before. And I've learned more about the disease through TV coverage and seen faces of victims who heart breakingly will die.

      I agree that the celebs should give millions more to the cause, but that doesn't dismiss all that has been done for ALS through this campaign.

      Comic relief seems to be more of a traditional fundraiser. It's still important and a great cause, but this feels different.

      • GB

        George Bullock

        over 5 years ago #

        In a sense the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign is the epitome of a growth hack.

        Assume there are two types of growth: base hits (incremental growth in smaller chunks) and home runs (fast growth in large chunks).

        For better or worse, to outside observers, that have maybe only read a couple of articles about growth hacking in the popular press, growth hacking is presented as the art of repeatedly hitting home runs. The narrative is something like XYZ brought in a growth hacker and she programmatically executed a series of Ice Bucket Challenges all the way to 50m users, a 10B valuation, and an oversubscribed IPO.

        Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair in my assessment of the press.

        Anyway, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the Ice Bucket Challenge ends up as a case study in someone's growth hacking guide (perhaps as a non-technical hack).

        • JP

          Joseph Putnam

          over 5 years ago #

          I like this home run comparison. To me, growth hacking is about working until you find that home run. Nobody hits a home run every time, not even a juiced up Barry Bonds, but growth hackers care more about hitting a home run than manufacturing one run here and there with a sacrifice bunt.

    • BD

      Brad Dubs

      over 5 years ago #

      @billfranklin I agree that it's a stretch to call this a growth hack. Seems to be just another case of viral content/video marketing. I suppose you could call the video's CTA (create your own video and challenge three others) a growth hack in the sense that it spurred the creation of more content, which exponentially contributed to the viral spread.

      Still just brilliant content marketing IMO.

  • UE

    Ugo Eze

    over 5 years ago #

    Only a matter of time before we see somebody else try to replicate this type of success.

  • JP

    Joseph Putnam

    over 5 years ago #

    I'm planning to write about this...so I can't give away my points just yet. The preview: Several reasons it's so successful can be found by reading Buzzmarketing by Mark Hughes. Feel free to wait around for my post...which I need to find time for...or go ahead and pick up the book. It's definitely worth it.

    • JP

      Joseph Putnam

      over 5 years ago #

      I haven't written about this yet, so here are the factors I think contributed to the campaigns success.

      1. It targets the right emotions. Jonah Berger in Contagious talks about amusement as being a positive, high arousal emotions that helps content go viral. Seeing someone pour a bucket of ice water on their head definitely hits this nail on the head.
      2. It's public. In the same book, Berger mentions that something with a public component has a greater chance of going viral. Example: White iPod headphones. The fact that the video's are recorded and shared publicly has a big impact on virality.
      3. Celebrities. This is one of the biggest factors if not the biggest. If the guy behind this was just able to get his friends to take the ice bucket challenge, it would take a really long time to pick up steam. But when you add in uber-celebrities with super huge platforms, BOOM, you've got a recipe for success. Mark Hughes talks about this in Buzzmarketing when he discusses the benefit of non-paid celebrity endorsements.
      4. It's unique and outrageous. Those are both buzz buttons that Hughes talks about in his book. When have you ever seen people pour buckets of water on their heads, record it, and share it socially? Never. That makes this a very unique campaign, but if someone tries to duplicate, it will have lost it's uniqueness (at least by the third or fourth go round).
      5. Clear call to action. It's gotta help that a specific number of people are called out each time a video is recorded. This helps for the campaign to continue, and virality means that something grows exponentially so three people getting called out at once fits into that category.

  • DH

    Dave Howe

    over 5 years ago #

    This might be an interesting and unique growth study. A bit different from what's been done in the past here at GH, but it could get quite a bit of attention.

  • RH

    Raquel Hirsch

    over 5 years ago #

    An important question, from a socieltal perspective is this: are the donations for the #IceBucketChallenge coming from a switch from other fundraising initiatives or are fresh charitable dollars being generated?

  • GS

    Gonzalo Sanchez Sarmiento

    over 5 years ago #

    I think there is something missing here: the strong social proof/validation you get by being nominated by someone, and the inherent power/fun of being able to nominate friends.

    A couple of folks in the comments said that it was only a matter of time before someone tried to replicate it. Mailbox already did it for the launch of the beta version of Mailbox for Mac.

  • DM

    Dan Medcraft

    over 5 years ago #

    i know it'd be nearly impossible to track, but it'd be interested to see how many people who posted to social media actually took the time to either a) find out more about ALS (the number of people I saw typing it as ASL was kind of embarrassing), and b) actually donate.

    still, it's hard to argue that this hasn't been massively successful

  • NE

    Norberts Erts

    over 5 years ago #

    There is one main - social media.

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