How the Ice Bucket Challenge Exemplifies Viral-Marketing Serendipity

No one knew daring people to dump cold water on each other would go viral, so don't be afraid to try your crazy marketing idea.

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By Robert Tuchman • Sep 2, 2014

There have been reviews and comments of every kind about ALS's Ice Bucket Challenge. Some say it was genius, some say it was frivolous. However, the reality is, the event was a grand slam in terms of putting a little-known disease on the map.

This is the kind of viral marketing success small businesses and start-ups are always dreaming will catapult them. The lesson here is, if you are trying to take your business to the next level, sometimes a simple, inexpensive idea will do the trick. Don't over-think it. If you have an idea that resonates with you, try it, it could pay huge dividends.

Related: How These 10 Marketing Campaigns Became Viral Hits

Here is what the Ice Bucket Challenge did for ALS.

1. Increased visibility. ALS lacks the visibility of other charities because it affects a comparatively smaller percentage of the population. However, now millions of people who never heard of ALS will instantly recognize it, forever changing its perception.

2. Enormous influx of funding. Donations following the ice bucket challenge total $100 million thus far as compared to opposed to $2.5 million during the same period in 2013. The stunt not only worked, it created money that can be used for years to come.

3. Signature event. Creating an event like the Ice Bucket challenge provided a platform to develop and launch other fundraising programs by putting the foundation on the national radar.

Related: A Scientific Take on Viral Marketing

4. Celebrity endorsements. Celebrity endorsements are key to a foundation's fundraising efforts. The overall increased awareness of ALS will now make it easier for the foundation to obtain celebrity appearances and support because they have familiarity with the disease.

5. Media awareness. This small idea put ALS at the center of the national conversation about charities. The number of media outlets who covered the story and the traction it gained in social media elevated ALS to the level of some of the most highly prominent causes.

You can never predict how ideas will ultimately play out but, as the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. In this case a small, somewhat silly concept actually did change the profile and trajectory of ALS fundraising. That will have an impact for many years to come. Whether a business or a good cause, a small idea can have huge results.

Related: Will You Be the Next Grumpy Cat or Gangnam Style? 3 Keys to Creating Viral Marketing Content

Robert Tuchman

Entrepreneur Staff

Host of How Success Happens

Robert Tuchman is the host of Entrepreneur's How Success Happens podcast and founder of Amaze Media Labs the largest business creating podcasts for companies and brands. He built and sold two Inc.500 companies: TSE Sports and Entertainment and Goviva acquired by Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

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