What Went Viral in 2014?

During Summer 2014, a campaign the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Ice Bucket Challenge went viral and it was a really successful one.

To participate in the challenge, the participant would have to record a video of him/herself having a bucket of ice and water poured above the head, upload it on their social media and nominate a minimum of 3 others to do the same in 24 hours, otherwise they would have to have a forfeit by making a donation to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association.

Bill Gates participated in the Challenge

The campaign went viral after popular celebrities started to upload videos of themselves and challenge more celebrities to upload their videos. Take a look at the video Bill Gates posted above. The ALS Challenge spread like wildfire across the internet after celebrities, Lady Gaga, Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey etc, uploaded a video of themselves doing the challenge on their social media accounts, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

It was also featured on a few shows to spread more awareness. Enticing more people to do it. For example, in the above video, Kim Kardashian did the challenge on The Ellen Degeneres show.

Isn’t it interesting how a campaign went viral? The team was really smart to come up with an Ice Bucket Challenge to raise funds and awareness, it is simple to do and it is fun because everyone’s home has ice and water.

It was really successful because ever since Summer 2014, this challenge has become a yearly event every Summer. By creating more awareness, people would donate, as shown in the picture above.

After the campaign was launched and popular figures did the challenge. It became the talk of the town, spreading through word of mouth. People started sharing it on the internet. The increase awareness allowed a huge increase in donation by 10 million dollars compared to the previous year.

Donald Trump doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

This challenge became viral easily because it fulfilled all of the S.T.E.P.P.S framework.

People care about how they look to others so they participated in the challenge as a form of showing that they care, social currency and emotion. I feel that many celebrities participated to portray a better image of themselves and to encourage such practices in helping others.

It was also a trigger because everyone was talking about it, when someone mentions Ice Bucket, naturally at the top-of-mind, ALS would come to mind.

It had practical value, therefore it was shared so quickly to build more awareness about the illness.

Stories were created by sharing and making videos, that went public to garner more attention

This example uses all 3 types of characteristics to make this campaign go viral. Firstly, Seth Godin’s People Characteristics because the ALS challenge is targeting an interested audience. Secondly, as mentioned above, Jonah Berger’s Message Characteristics is used as well. Lastly Malcolm Gladwell’s Network Characteristics, celebrities learn the knowledge from the ALS association, social media connects celebrities to their fans and public to spread the message around. These 3 characteristics work hand in hand to make a campaign successful. Without an interested audience, having a meaningful message would not be as efficient, a network of people is required to make a message successful.

However, if I really choose 1 characteristics, it would be the Network Characteristics, in order for something to go viral, a large outreach of people is necessary. Celebrities and influential people are able to achieve this, their audience and fans will spread the message on social media, generating a greater awareness, because only influential figures are able to trend news quickly because of the network they possess.

It was a great campaign wasn’t it? Using a trigger with practical value was really smart because it would spread with a cause and people feel empathy towards it. What are your thoughts?

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14 thoughts on “What Went Viral in 2014?

  1. Interesting to note how the challenge fulfilled all elements of the STEPPS framework. However, I do also think hat elements of luck are also involved as I do feel that there are actually ideas out there that are worthy of attention as well but weren’t picked up as no one particular famous participated knew much of said idea.

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    1. Yes I agree with you! It’s a shame how many good campaigns didn’t perform as expected just because it lacked influential figures to promote it. Therefore it is important for marketers to select an appropriate time to release the campaign, as well as celebrities to market the campaign. If it is possible for marketers to implement an activity similar to an ALS challenge, it will definitely go viral when people start sharing and talking about it, because it would be trending and garnering attention from readers!

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  2. I definitely remember when the ALS ice bucket challenge went viral, a lot of people from around the globe were doing it! Great application of the STEPPS framework and showing how the challenge went viral. I personally feel that the more contributing factor to why this challenge went viral was because of the emotional aspect, as they know they are doing this for a greater cause 🙂

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    1. Yes definitely, because it was for a good cause, and it wasn’t difficult to achieve, people challenged it and did it with friends and family to create more awareness. The activity was interesting as well, which was why everyone was doing it because it is fun to do. I suppose, for a campaign to go viral, emotional aspect is very important because It leaves an impression and an impact to the consumers!

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  3. Great to see that the application of the STEPPS framework is being applied here. In fact, I think this is a very good example to showcase the theory. Many people are having this misconception that the ALS ice bucket challenge only went viral because famous celebrities around the globe are doing so. But if you look closely, there is definitely more than meets the eye with this one. The STEPPS framework really did help in elaborating why this challenge went viral. But overall, I am still glad that this challenge is done for a greater cause. Great read! Hope to see more of such content in the future. Cheers~

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    1. Thank you :)! As a consumer it probably did go viral because celebrities were doing it, fans and family who are supporters do it too because it was a trending issue. Indeed, there is more to it, the story behind it, the purpose to create awareness for a good cause. The marketers behind the campaign achieved all that with an activity and hashtags. They really made the ALS challenge successful.

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  4. Good read! I remember how the ALS ice bucket challenge went viral among our friends in social media as well. Everyone was challenging one another to do it. Interesting to know that it went viral because of the S.T.E.P.P.S framework and not because of the influence of the celebrity. It’s meaningful to know that the challenge was to raise funds and awareness

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  5. Thank you! 🙂 The meaning behind the campaign was more meaningful and increases the awareness of ALS, which people didn’t know. I believe the people who came up with the campaign didn’t expect it to be this successful, for famous celebrities and influential figures to actually participate and become a worldwide topic. S.T.E.P.P.S framework helps to ensure that the campaign has a reason and people will remember it. However, without the influence of celebrities, I believe it wouldn’t have gone viral, because of the lack of outreach of audience

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  6. This is a very meaningful challenge as not only does it raise funds, and also raise awareness about Motor Neurone Disease (MND). This challenge makes use of celebrities to create an influential impact in the society where people of all ages try to participate in this hype. Not only that it is an interesting and a fun challenge, it shows how S.T.E.P.P.S framework is able to influence millions of people. It is a win-win situation for the celebrities as it builds their images. The attempt by using this framework turns out to be a huge success, which is really unexpected. Do you know any other contents that made use of S.T.E.P.P.S framework as well?

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    1. I am glad that this read is relatable to you, and that you understand how the framework works. Celebrities do make a difference and it helps them by creating a better reputation of themselves too as a role model for others. There are many campaigns that utilise the S.T.E.P.P.S framework! For example the ‘Old Spice’ advertisement. It used the humor factor to gain the attention of the audience, but the story behind it is that it is okay for men to groom themselves, it does not have to be seen as only women do things like that. Which was why they portrayed that anything is possible after using Old Spice!

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  7. Thanks for this insightful piece on the ALS framework, which surprisingly covered all the 6 principles in the framework seamlessly! I am guilty for performing this challenge when it went viral to increase my social currency! I wonder after the success of this campaign, whether traditional methods of raising funds are still carried out or has the ALS challenge changed fundraising forever?

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  8. Thank you! 🙂 I feel that traditional methods of fund raising still work, because there is a cause for it still. However, it is not as fun as the ALS challenge. Traditional methods have its perks in being more organic and genuine, with the use of social media, sometimes it can lose its credibility. Especially with the reputation of platforms being posted on and celebrities who participate. Some people may feel that there is no donation, just pure advertising for the celebrity. Nonetheless, social media does help to make content go viral, the moment it trends on the internet, journalists would start writing articles to be featured on newspapers and more people will come to learn about it.

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  9. I remember how the ALS Challenge went viral, everyone in school were talking about it. Thank you for breaking down how the S.T.E.P.P.S framework was used in the ALS Challenge campaign, it allowed me to better understand this framework. It is true that if any campaign follows this framework, it will be successful because the emotions factor creates a memory to the audience, allowing them to remember. However, for the campaign to be a truly successful one, does one need to think of a correct time, correct social figures to participate in the campaign?

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  10. A correct time and the correct celebrity to feature in the campaign is important too. The reputation of the celebrity could affect the reputation of the brand too, and affect consumer’s perception of a brand. Celebrities will have a greater advantage of making small things go viral, which is why luxury brands would feature celebrities in their new products, to make consumers want to look like their celebrities. Following the S.T.E.P.P.S framework doesn’t determine success for a campaign to go viral if there isn’t enough outreach of people spreading and sharing the campaign. Thank you for your comment! 🙂

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