What Ice Buckets Teach Us About The Spread of Ideas

 

Actors, sports figures, musicians, and even a former United States President have been doused in ice-cold water in recent days.  If you haven’t witnessed this, you may be enjoying a summer on a remote island with no connection to any media.  For those of us who have watched this phenomenon take off, we may ask what lessons we can all learn from it all.

Why did this take off?  What is it about this campaign that made people act?

 

Purposeful

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is for a meaningful purpose: to raise money to find a cure for a devastating and fatal disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The financial results are stunning.  If the challenge were not tied directly to a bigger purpose, it would have failed.  Not many people would participate without an important cause.  It’s hard to turn down a challenge with a purpose.

“An idea spreads faster when purpose is married to challenge.” -Skip Prichard

 

Powerful

Technology has changed everything.  It’s easy to record a video, upload it to a social media account, and see what happens.  The video brings multiple senses and emotions into play.  We can see our friends’ reaction to the water; we can almost feel the cold of the ice; we hear the laughter in the background.  It’s a powerful multi-sensory appeal.  When you add the emotional appeal of the cause, the call to action becomes almost irresistible.

“An idea spreads faster when more senses are involved in the call to action.” -Skip Prichard

 

Personal

The challenge has a uniquely personal appeal.  One person challenges others to join in.  Instead of merely forwarding an email or sharing something on social media, it demands participation.  That’s where it becomes uniquely personal.  If this challenge were a cookie-cutter replication, it would not spread.  It’s the personal spin that draws us in.  Bill Gates didn’t just have water thrown on him; he sat down and designed a better way to execute.  The personality of each participant shines through.

“An idea spreads faster when personalized.” -Skip Prichard

 

Public