Grassroot Campaign Lessons from the Ice Bucket Challenge

Grassroots marketing is described as using unconventional or nontraditional methods which is exactly what the ALS #icebucketchallenge is. In less than a month, the ALS Association has raised $22 million and garnered over 400,000 new donors. It is a phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down donations or videos being uploaded to various social networks. Celebrities such as Lady GaGa, Oprah Winfrey, Drake, and Bill Gates have taken the challenge and they are joined by millions of Americans across the country. During the same time period last year, the association only raised $1.9 million in donations.

The ice bucket challenge is inescapable if you use any social media platform. The grassroots campaign is successful for several reasons. Mainly, it is fun to see people get water dumped on them and participating in the challenge boosts people’s social validity. But at the heart of the campaign is the key to any successful grassroots campaign which shareability. The challenge makes a participant nominate three additional people to participate thus spreading the message. If there were ever a campaign that could be described as spreading like wildfire, it would be this one.



I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but I’m sure this viral sensation has outspread and outlived that Harlem Shake epidemic awhile back. And this is actually for a good cause. In addition to raised donations, website traffic has increased which likely means awareness of what ALS is has increased. Awareness and donations are two of the typical key performance indicators for nonprofits. By all accounts this grassroots campaign has been unbelievably successful.

If you go to the YouTube page for the ALS Association you will see that not one of their public service announcement videos has over 30,000 views, but Bill Gates Ice Bucket Challenge video has 8 million views.  The lesson to be learned here, as the dynamics of society shift and funny videos take over the web, we have to shift our marketing tactics with them. Whether it is through an ice bucket challenge, Instagram contest, or Vine video, there are new ways to get our messages out to large audiences for little or no money.

Grassroots campaigns are still relevant and working because marketers are evolving them to keep up with today’s current trends. Sometimes tearjerkers work well for non-profits, but ice on a celebrities head seems to work even better. Social media is the new word-of-mouth marketing. When thinking of a grassroots campaign remember that shareability is key! Today, people want to be at the forefront of social movements that will boost their social validity. Infuse this into your campaign and you will have a winner.




2 Comments on “Grassroot Campaign Lessons from the Ice Bucket Challenge

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