Analysis & Opinion

Now Trending: Icy CEO’s Make Great Content

September 17, 2014 Katie Tammaro

AHN_IBCChances are if you have an Internet connection, you’ve heard about the #IceBucketChallenge for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The Ice Bucket Challenge burst on to the social media scene after former Boston College baseball player Peter Frates, who suffers from ALS, emerged with a challenge to his Facebook friends that has since gone viral. Exactly how viral? Facebook reports that users have collectively uploaded 2.4 million ice bucket challenge videos to date. 

 The concept behind the social media frenzy is simple: A friend (presumably a Facebook friend) challenges 3 of their friends to either douse themselves with ice water and post a video to social media or donate $100 to the ALSA. Many participants choose to do both. They also nominate three more people to participate and so on. The campaign, meant to raise awareness of ALS, has taken the social media world by storm. The challenge has been scrutinized by some, who chalk it up to be another brilliant PR stunt, It’s even been referred to as “slactivism,” but the numbers don’t lie.

According to, the Association has received $31.5 million in donations as of August 20, which is in stark contrast to the $1.9 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 20).  In addition to the incredible spike in donations, there’s also been an increase in new donors – 637,527 new donors to date.

So, have you accepted the challenge? If so, you’ve joined the ranks of celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Downey Jr. and Britney Spears who have doused themselves in ice water for a worthy cause.

Celebrities aren’t the only ones who have participated in the challenge. CEO’s like Bill Gates, who upped the ante by engineering his own ice bucket contraption; Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook have all joined their peers for the challenge.  CEO’s often tread lightly around viral campaigns such as the Ice Bucket Challenge so why is it that so many have jumped on the bandwagon to show their support? Here are four reasons why any CEO should consider participating in a viral trend such as the Ice Bucket Challenge:

It’s an opportunity for CEO’s to show their personality

CEO’s get a lot of flack in the media for appearing to be “stuffy” or high strung. The challenge is a great way for CEO’s or other executive level employees to have a little bit of fun and let their true colors shine though like Microsoft founder, Bill Gates did in his Ice Bucket Challenge video.

It shows they are up on current trends

A common misperception of CEO’s is that they are disconnected – especially when it comes to social media trends. Because the challenge is social in nature and was first introduced on Facebook, the participation of a CEO shows that they are connected to the world around them and more specifically, connected to young people who make up 89% of the users on social media sites today.

It humanizes a CEO

CEO’s are often in the spotlight but it’s not always for a good reason. Typically, the public will only hear from a CEO when they are responding to a crisis. Unfortunately, this sticks in the public’s mind when they think of the company in the future. But the challenge has offered a fun way to put the CEO in the spotlight for a lighthearted reason. The challenge also proves that CEO’s care about important causes such as the ALSA.

It’s for a great cause

This one seems like a no-brainer. However, many companies are already committed to a strict CSR giving plan so other, worthy causes can be overlooked. The ice bucket challenge sheds light on a terrible disease that is not as widely talked about as other more publicized causes. It’s a great way for CEO’s to give back to another, very worthy cause.

As always, there is a certain level of risk associated with participating in a viral trend. A public relations/marketing team should be consulted beforehand to determine if a trend is in conflict with a company’s overall brand messaging. Let’s face it, trends come and go but  a brand is evergreen.

The public demands transparency from companies, CEO’s especially, and it is their job to deliver. Social media is the premier  platform for brands to connect to consumers in a transparent, genuine way. Social trends such as the Ice Bucket Challenge place CEO’s in the forefront while showing the public that they can roll up their sleeves and have a little bit of fun. After all, in the post-digital era, CEO’S can’t afford to be in the dark about emerging social trends.