The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Using User Generated Content for Good


User generated content is kind of the Holy Grail of content marketing. Users make branded content on their own when they feel so inspired, or loyal to a brand that they want to actively help that brand in writing, video, audio, or other forms for a content. Getting users to generate content can be tricky. Many different brands have tried different methods, from contests to straight up asking for content, to different degrees of success.

Today, let’s take a look at a recent (ongoing) very successful campaign, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Here’s how the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge works: A user films a video of themselves dumping ice water on their head. They mention the ALS web site, and encourage viewers to donate money there. They challenge more people by name to compete in the ice bucket challenge within 24 hours, or donate $100 to ALS.

Why has the campaign been so successful and what can marketers learn from its success?

It’s easy.

Most users don’t have advanced video-editing, or writing skills. The gateway to entry for user generated content needs to be low. However, it is helpful to have enough freedom in content parameters to allow for creative entries. Some Ice Bucket Challenge Users have written plays, gotten water dumped on them from helicopters, or jumped into icy bathtubs. But, most users just dumped a bucket of water on their heads.

Make it fun.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is fun. It’s fun to watch the videos. It’s fun to film your own. Fun content will make people want to participate in an activity.

Appeal to aspiration.

It’s not enough to ask people to make your content for you. You have to appeal to their aspirations. It’s easy for an organization like the ALS Association to do this because they are a charitable organization. It is their mission to help people. Even if your brand is not charitable by nature, you can ask users to raise money for a charity and sponsor the event. There are lots of creative ways to appeal to aspiration beyond charity as well. Just remember, asking people to do good is a powerful way to get them involved with your brand.

For more on creating content marketing campaigns that engage and inspire, check out our article on how sincerity beats cynicism in content marketing.