ALS Challenge Breakdown: 5 Steps To Create Your Own Movement & Organize A Global Army

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To create a Movement for your ideas, business or cause, you’re going to need to organize an army of evangelists for what you believe is worth fighting for. Yes, I said “Fighting for.” Movements are not built by the ‘features to benefits’ argument used by journeyman copywriters.

Building a movement is a psychological sport.

So this month, let’s look at a great example. Then I’ll get to those five words.

The recent ALS campaign is fascinating to me. Personally, I hate it. When challenged to do something “I dare you”, and subjected to peer pressure, my natural instinct is to resist. It’s just who I am. I love giving. But I don’t like to be challenged to give.

Nonetheless, you can’t argue with the success of the campaign. That belief of mine, by the way, is a big factor for its success. That’s what makes it controversial. Now people are talking about it. Debating it…

You’ve seen it on the news. On the blogs. Even the former president videotaped his acceptance of the challenge. This spurred more news. He then challenged Clinton, which spurred even more news. And on Facebook, it continues to circle at a rampant pace….

There can be no argument about the effectiveness of this campaign. Like it or hate it or annoyed by it, tens of millions have been raised because of it.

As of Friday, August 22, the ALS Association has received $53.3 million in donations compared to just $2.2 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 21).

Not to mention, have added 1.1 million new donors to their donors list i.e. buyers list.

If you’re impressed, you should be. I am too.

This is why I say creating a Movement “is a psychological sport.” Because not copy, nor did the principles of direct- response marketing make this happen. This was all strategy, the brilliant idea of someone who understands the masses, and manipulation of human behavior.

Let’s look at some of the forces at work here:

1. Exponential Reach With a Built-in Traffic Source

als challenge viral marketing

It takes only one person to start it. One becomes two. Two becomes four. Four becomes eight. Eight becomes sixteen. Sixteen becomes 32. Thirty-two becomes 64. Which becomes 128… 256… 512… 1024… 2048… 4096… and this continues until it sweeps the nation, reaching millions. And this is, if each person challenges only one other person.

If each person challenges three, that 4,096 becomes 531,441 people reached. The ALS Association devised a marketing strategy that spread like a virus: Human to human transmission. And, just like a virus, it was free, and you couldn’t prevent it from happening to you. Being challenged that is.

2. Peer Pressure + It’s For a Good Cause + Shame

ALS Challenge

If you refuse to accept the challenge, you hate ALS suffers. Strong statement? Hey I didn’t say it, but that is what’s implied—a strong motivational force, no doubt. Nobody wants to be the guy who hates suffers of a terrible disease. What would that say about you as a person? And the fact that the challenge is public, often announced to mutual friends or family members, on Facebook, great pressure is put upon the person to accept the challenge. So he does, even if he didn’t want to.

3. Payback & Revenge


I just had a cold bucket of water dumped on my head. Someone else is getting one too. President Bush challenged Bill Clinton. You know he enjoyed that… Charlie Sheen challenged Ashton Kutcher.

Hmm… Revenge?

4. Film It & Visibility

ALS Video

A quick YouTube search for “ALS Challenge” generated 844,000 videos; videos that will remain on YouTube forever. Driving millions of views and traffic back to the ALS website for years to come. This visibility, also, is a big part of the challenge/peer pressure/revenge aspect too. Because it forces those who’ve been challenged to “prove” that they did it… They can’t just say they did it. Further, the challenge becomes a game to see who can get most creative. This drives even more views and traffic. Just look at that Bill Gates video, it’s been viewed more than 14 million times. And Charlie Sheen isn’t far behind, both showmen. In addition to the masses, the power of celebrity is harnessed. Hundreds of them. How else could ALS have gotten this endorsement/social proof? So quickly, so easily…

5. Press Releases + Publicity

ALS Challenge StatsMovements feed on themselves. Once they are ignited, like an oil fire, they are hard to put out. And everybody talking about it; serves only to fuel it. The leader of the Movement, his role then becomes; to convey to those involved, because of their actions, what they have accomplished, and the importance of what they are fighting for; the idea, the cause, the belief… And the size of the Movement itself, serves as the proof of its importance. Giving more fuel to the fire…

In Press Releases shown, from the ALS Association, you can see it took 3 days to get from 10 million to 22 million, and only three more days to hit 53 million.

If you have a mind like mine, you might ask, “What could explain this?”

It’s simpler than you’d think.

The words “New” and “Free,” and “What others are saying” have long been hailed among the most powerful words and phrases in marketing. But they can’t hold a candle to these five words, “It’s For A Good Cause. Watch the Sheen video. It reveals this truth.

Or, you can just use your own common sense.

Chris Brisson

Chris is the co-founder and CEO at Call Loop. He is focused on marketing automation, growth hacker strategies, and creating duplicatable systems for growing a remote and bootstrapped company. Chat with him on Twitter at @chrisbrisson