If every brand had one wish, it may be for a campaign to go viral – in a big way. This is what has happened for the ALS Association, with lots of help from buckets of ice water, a contagious following, and a brilliant brand identity strategy.

Since 29th July, the ALS Association, a foundation established to raise money and awareness about Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s disease), has raised more than $79.7 million with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In it, participants shoot a video in which they thank their nominator, pour a bucket of ice water on their heads, and then nominate three more people to accept the challenge. Nominees can accept the challenge (with or without making a small donation), or can bypass the ice bath in favour of making a $100 donation to the ALS Association.

So far, the results have been unrivalled, and it seems that the campaign is still going strong.

Build a Brand Identity Strategy using the ALS Association’s Example

How to Build a Brand always recommend that you look to successful strategies, like this one, as you construct or improve upon your own brand identity strategy. Of course, copying the campaign wouldn’t be the best move; however, there are some valuable pieces of advice you can harvest from the example of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.



There are a number of features that make the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a brilliant example of viral marketing…and hint, hint: you can use every one of these principles to bolster your own brand identity strategy. Here they are:

  1. Video: When brands use video to communicate, whether that video originated from the brand itself or from its followers, a generous percentage of people will likely be engaged. Video is widely considered to be an experienced-based medium, meaning that people’s empathetic nervous systems are engaged while they’re watching – as if they are really there, at the scene. This equates to real, long-lasting and positive memories about your brand.
  2. Barrier-Busting: Watch a just of handful of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos and you’ll notice that participants come from different ethnicities, social classes, ages, geographical locations, and economic statuses. At How to Build a Brand, we don’t recommend that you build your brand identity strategy with the intention of including everyone, but if that happens, then take it!
  3. Celebrity Endorsements: Ever check the price tag on a celebrity appearance? Most brands (especially start-ups) couldn’t begin to afford it. However, when you start a campaign such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and it grows exponentially, celebrities are bound to get involved. We can’t think of a better type of brand referral, or a better ROI situation.
  4. Entertainment: Even before the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge saw participants getting creative with their ‘dumps,’ viewers got a real charge out of watching people shake, shiver, and shout expletives as the icy water cascaded over their bodies. ‘Fails’ are inevitable and everyone enjoys watching the most unlikely candidates (and colourful characters) partaking in the fun.
  5. Humour: We live in a serious world filled with drama and not-so-good news. This makes humour a welcomed – and distinguishable – trait that brands should embrace. Brighten someone’s day, and your brand will forever be associated with the good feelings it created. When someone it has touched wants to feel those positive emotions again, your brand will be sought out.
  6. Timing: Timing is everything, and the ALS Association got this one right. They chose to run the campaign during the summer months, when most regions are experiencing warm weather (conducive to dumping freezing water on one’s head). When launching any new brand identity strategy campaign, consider the weather, holidays, school year, etc.
  7. A Worthy Cause: Not only are consumers generally well-educated, other brands want to align themselves with something their own loyal clients would approve of. Prove to your audience that your cause is worthy of their time and/or their money, and you’ll garner a following.
  8. Exclusivity: Anyone who hasn’t yet been nominated for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge might be asking Why not me? (Whether they’d like to admit it or not). Every brand identity strategy should include a plan for making participants feel that they’re part of an exclusive group. This will spur others to want to join. No one wants to feel left out.
  9. A Prism Effect: The structure of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge promotes campaign growth. Every person who is nominated is asked to nominate three more people. This not only keeps the campaign alive, it multiplies participants with every nomination.
  10. Obligation: Ask anyone who’s been nominated to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and you’ll note some hesitancy…along with some level of obligation. Sidestepping participation causes pangs of guilt for not helping those suffering from ALS, and it implies social irresponsibility to one’s circle of friends. The subliminal pressure is immense, and the ALS Association has greatly benefited from this.

The ALS Association has created something huge with its Ice Bucket Challenge – and you can, too! Contact How to Build a Brand today to learn about the best ways to build a brilliant brand identity strategy for your brand. Call us on +44 (0) 208 123 6776, email us on [email protected], get your daily branding tips at https://www.facebook.com/BrandExpertTips, or sign up for our FREE 6 Step Brand L.E.A.D.E.R. System.

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