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Don’t Throw Cold Water on Crazy Ideas

Posted on Thu, January 1,2015 @ 12:16 PM

So far since its summer inception, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than $111 million to support the ALS Association’s (ALSA) campaign to fight the disease that claimed the life of baseball legend Lou Gehrig and so many others. The organization raised about $3 million during the same time frame in 2013.


This incredibly successful fundraising concept evokes a modern-day chain letter, except it leverages social media to virally spread a simple dare from friends, family and peers: get doused by a bucket of ice water (and capture it on video and post on social media within 24 hours of being challenged), or make a $100 donation to ALSA, or both.

Raise your hand if you would have voted the idea down while participating in a brainstorming session. It doesn’t seem to correlate with the cause, the act itself causes discomfort to the participant, it didn't seem celebrity-friendly and who in their right mind would put awkward videos of themselves on the Internet? Scratch that last thought.

The point is, there’s not an exact science to creating an Internet phenomenon. Someone comes up with an idea, puts a plan into action, spreads the word and hopes for the best. For every Ice Bucket Challenge, there are hundreds of unsuccessful campaigns. (To view some real failures, click here.)

If you are determined to score in some sort of viral marketing fashion, the lesson seems to be to create novel ideas, pursue well-crafted campaigns to promote the concept, be persistent, and try all over again with a different idea until you hit pay dirt.

The Ice Bucket Challenge tells us to be original, keep it simple, and don’t be bound by conventional thinking or even group-think.

Henry Ford captured the gist of the value of original thinking when explaining why he invented the automobile, a product based only upon his singular idea, and at the time, zero demand.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

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