Converting viral trends to funding – it’s not a pipe dream

Submitted by on the 29th of July 2016

Scroll through your social media timelines: between the baby pictures, selfies, and political tirades, the chances are high that you’ll come across content from the latest viral sensation inviting participants to do all manner of stunts for some cause or another. If your eyes roll at the predictable “bandwagon” craze, perhaps its time you rethink that stance.

We all remember the Ice Bucket Challenge from 2014. The craze challenging people to pour buckets of ice-water over their heads for ALS awareness.

This week the University of Massachusetts Medical School announced a breakthrough in their Ice Bucket Challenge funded Project MinE: thanks to the Million Dollar donation submitted to the project, their global task team was able to sequence gene samples from thousands of participants, and have identified a gene they believe to be responsible for ALS – NEK1.

“The sophisticated gene analysis that led to this finding was only possible because of the large number of ALS samples available. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge enabled The ALS Association to invest in Project MinE’s work to create large biorepositories of ALS biosamples that are designed to allow exactly this kind of research and to produce exactly this kind of result.” – Lucie Bruijn, PhD, MBA, of The ALS Association.

So what does this tell us?

In a nutshell: those seemingly silly videos make a measurable difference. 18 Million videos led to 220 Million Dollars raised for the ALS cause; proving that while many still don’t know what ALS is, or even stands for (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, by the way), the drive to participate in the trend and be seen as cool is strong enough to convert into sizeable funding. Trumping even the need for education on the cause.

At the end of the day, how do you turn those likes into action? If we’ve learned anything from the viral nature of of these challenges, people crave validation through participating in a mass movement. Rather than slating them for publicising their Random Acts of Kindness, we need to remain focused on the positive outcome. From a brand perspective, this means maintaining authenticity and leaving the hard sell at the door. Keep it fun, keep it simple, keep it sharable with a clear call to action. And always include cats if possible.