29 August 2014 | Team Tamar

Viral Trend Alert: #ALSIceBucketChallenge

No doubt your Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr newsfeeds are currently being dominated with numerous videos of people you know, and people you don’t, having ice cold water poured over them. Look up “viral content” in the dictionary and the Ice Bucket Challenge will no doubt be one of the top examples.

Internet Sensation

Although the basic idea of being covered in cold water is not exactly new, the challenge shifted focus towards ALS and took hold of the Internet on July 15th 2014 when it was completed live on air on The Today Show. Between June 1st and August 13th, there were more than 1.2 million videos uploaded to Facebook, and over $88 million was donated to ALS between July 29th and August 26th.

When looking at the Ice Bucket Challenge hashtag trends on Instagram, you can see that #alsicebucketchallenge won by a mile, and clearly hit its peak on 21st August. Although it appears to dip, the trend is still going strong and doesn’t look like it will drop too far in the coming weeks.

Instagram Trend Graph

Not everyone’s a fan

Like any viral trend, there has been some negative backlash. Pamela Anderson was one of the celebs who refused the challenge, writing on her Facebook page that she could not support the ALS Association due to their supposed involvement in animal testing.Pamela Anderson Ice Bucket Challenge Message

Another celebrity that had something to say about the trend was Ariana Grande, but her reasons weren’t against the charity involved but the act itself. The singer argued that the trend was a waste of water:

Ariana Grande Ice Bucket Challenge TweetIt has also been critiqued for targeting an illness that doesn’t affect a huge number of people, like HIV and malaria do. However, it could also be argued that that is the point of the campaign at all, to gain awareness of something that most people don’t know about. It is also difficult to criticise those who donate their money towards a good cause, no matter what that cause is.

Overall, any viral trend is going to have criticism, but the sheer popularity and growth in such a short period of time clearly shows most people are definitely in favour of it.

How does it match up to previous trends?

It cannot be disputed that the Ice Bucket Challenge shares some similarities to the No Make-up Selfie challenge that was popular earlier this year. When comparing the two trends, there are a number of important differences that are likely to be the reason the Ice Bucket Challenge has been far more popular. One of the most obvious differences is that the act itself is not just targeting women. Despite there being some men doing a “make up selfie”, those who took part and donated were predominantly female.

Being soaked with ice water can be done to anyone, male or female, children or adult; there is no restriction made that the #nomakeupselfie trend created. Following on from this point is that it can be done by groups, therefore sharing the embarrassment and making those taking part feel less vulnerable. It is also easier for brands to take part, as it’s not focused on a photo of a single person.

The No Makeup Selfie craze was also more UK centred whereas the Ice Bucket Challenge appears to be far more globally spread, probably due to the involvement of more celebrities giving it a farther reach.

It’s safe to say that the general public know less about ALS than they do about other illnesses like cancer; this allows the campaign to focus on raising awareness. The #nomakeupselfie raised over £2m for various cancer charities, but didn’t necessarily raise awareness as there is already a lot of exposure for those charities.

Our top picks

The challenge was originally targeted for celebrities and those in the public eye, with Barack Obama being nominated by various personalities, including Ethel Kennedy, Justin Bieber and LeBron James. Although the President of the US declined the challenge and opted just to make a donation, most famous faces have been more than happy to freeze themselves for a good cause. Brands themselves have also jumped on the band wagon, using the trend as an opportunity to show their creativity. Here are some of our favourite examples of how brands and celebrities put their own twist on the challenge:

Old Spice

Charlie Sheen

Matt Damon

There are some clear takeaways from this trend that should be considered when planning a future campaign that you want to go viral:

  • Choose a cause that people will want to support and has a clear focus. Although criticised for being a relatively uncommon condition, the fact that it’s not so widespread definitely contributed to its success.
  • Choose an activity that’s easy to do, has an element of sacrifice and doesn’t restrict anyone from being able to join in.
  • Make sure it’s fun; despite being drenched in freezing water, people enjoyed taking part.
  • Being able to do it in groups will encourage more people to take part as they can share their vulnerability.

With the trend still going strong, it will be fascinating to examine the full effect of the trend once it has finally (if ever) died down.

Team Tamar