Five Social Cause Campaigns That Went Viral

Can a social cause in the span of two odd months raise $100 million? Yes, you read the figure right. That’s the amount raised by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Till a month back, not many were aware of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Then, the Ice Bucket Challenge happened and today, it is one of the most talked about issues. The success of the Ice Bucket Challenge is proof that if done right, cause marketing works and social causes can garner public interest and support. What made it such a success? It had all the characteristics of a good marketing campaign – ‘emotional connect’, ‘wide coverage’– it was almost a global phenomena, ‘word of mouth promotion’- it had the patronage of well-known personalities (video of Bill Gates taking the Ice Bucket Challenge) and if the videos on YouTube are anything to go by, it had an element of ‘excitement’. Plus, it made doing good look ‘cool’.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge gave rise to a host of bucket challenges all over the world – Rice Bucket Challenge in India, Rubble Bucket Challenge in Gaza, Fill the Bucket Challenge in Nepal, addressing and spreading awareness of the plight or difficulties being faced by a certain people in that region. The debate and discussion revolving around the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge and the focus that it brought on cause marketing, made us look up if we had any such campaigns – company sponsored or individual initiatives, that managed to transcend all boundaries – social and regional  – and persuaded people to take a step forward for a social cause , speak up for it and give either their time or financial support.

Here’s our list of social cause campaigns that went viral and managed to bring about a change for the cause or in our attitude towards it.  

The Rice Bucket Challenge – Inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the Rice Bucket Challenge – an ‘Indian version for Indian needs’- is the brainchild of  Manjulatha Kalanidhi, a journalist from Hyderabad. Within a month of its launch, the concept has gained popularity across the country and has managed to evoke the spirit of giving in people of all ages. To participate, one only needs to donate a bowl of rice (or more if they want to) to any needy person and post a picture on the Rice Bucket Challenge’s Facebook page tagging friends to take up the challenge.  Although, there are no official statistics available to know the exact quantum of rice donated, one can get a measure of its success just by visiting its Facebook page which has garnered 64,000+ likes within a month of its inception. For this initiative, Manjulatha has been awarded the Karmaveer Chakra Award and the Rex Karmaveer Global Fellowship by iCONGO, an international confederation of NGOs, and the United Nations.


Images Courtesy: Rice Bucket Challenge/Facebook

Power of 49 – Tata Tea’s latest campaign – ‘Power of 49’, launched under the aegis of the Jaago Re movement, focuses on promoting equal status for women in the society and encouraging women empowerment . The ‘49’ in Power of 49, symbolizes the % of women on the electoral rolls. The campaign, since its launch in 2013, has taken up issues related to domestic violence, the public safety of women, education and employment, health and sanitation, and the latest being  to encourage women to demonstrate the true Power of 49 by casting their votes in the recently concluded elections. With the support of  known personalities like Shabana Azmi, Kiran Bedi, Flavia Agnes, and Ranjana Kumari, who give a voice to the causes it represents, the campaign is nothing short of a revolution. So far, the three -member team set up for each of these causes has come out with  manifestos stating the problems that women face and putting forth their demands. Power of 49 does not only highlight the issues but also celebrates achievements of women in every walk of life. To know more about the campaign and to participate visit


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Dark is Beautiful – In a land obsessed with ‘fair’ skin, the mere thought that ‘dark skin can be beautiful’ is criminal. Needless to say, the pressure to be ‘fair’ is slightly more on the women. Indian women have, since generations, been convinced that success in any endeavour like – gaining acceptance in society, being loved by family,  getting a job or a promotion, getting married, is heavily dependent on the color of their skin or rather on the ‘lack’ of it. A belief that is further endorsed by marketers selling skin creams that promise to miraculously lighten their skin tone and brighten their life! This attitude in a country where a major section of the ‘entire’ population is either blessed with a wheatish skin tone, or in some (un)fortunate cases a slightly darker skin tone, is alarming and has been the cause of depression and insecurity in young girls.  To counter the ill effects of this mindset, Kavitha Emmanuel, founder-director of  the Women of Worth movement,  launched the Dark is Beautiful campaign (2009) with the fiery, dusky and beautiful Nandita Das as its spokesperson. The campaign aims to create awareness about the harmful effects of discrimination based on skin color. Through media literacy workshops and life skills training workshops it aims to educate people to deal with discrimination based on skin color and its blog  provides an outlet to supporters of the campaign and sufferers of the ‘fair is beautiful syndrome’. The campaign was globally appreciated and in June 2014, it achieved a milestone in the form of ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) finally realizing that too much ‘fairness’ was quite ‘unfair’ and came out with new and stringent guidelines for advertisements of fairness creams.


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The Jan Lokpal Bill Movement – Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill movement was responsible for giving a voice to India’s fight against corruption and corrupt babus. The movement that started in April 2011, with Anna Hazare going on a hunger strike to get the Jan Lokpal Bill, first drafted in 1968, approved by the government, became one of the largest people movements in India since the nation’s fight for independence, and was considered one of the top 10 news stories in world in 2011 by Time Magazine. It brought people of all regions and social strata together to demand a corruption-free India. The Jan Lokpal Bill was finally passed in the Lok Sabha in December 2013 after tireless efforts of Anna Hazare and his team comprising Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, who chose to get the government’s attention through the ahimsa way  by keeping fasts (kept by Anna), organizing dharnas and rallies and with effective use of social media to reach out to the country’s youth. Although, today, almost a year after the Jan Lokpal Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, we may not be able to confidently declare India to be corruption-free, but we can definitely say that a way has been paved and we’ll get there!


Save Our Tigers – In the long list of issues we need to fight for or against, as the case may be, is the need to save and protect wildlife, one of them being the country’s National Animal – Tiger. The movement to protect the national animal started in 2008 by Aircel and NDTV  after the  Sariska Tiger Reserve  lost all its tigers due to poaching. Since then both the companies along with the government have been actively trying to gather funds to set up facilities to give a safe home to the animal. Among its many initiatives, few that stand out and have caught people’s attention are the regular ad campaigns, documentaries that they launch, the telethon launched in the first year collected INR 45 million, signature campaign (open), and the latest, create and sell merchandise based on Aircel’s ‘Kids for Tigers’ brand ambassador Stripey the cub, in partnership with Gabi Life. Apart from these initiatives, Aircel has also come up with a six-point agenda highlighting the support that they need from all of us to save our national animal. The six-point agenda is

  • Involve local communities in conservation
  • Strengthen and modernize the forest department to step up protection
  • Improve man-animal conflict mitigation measures
  • Increase protection in buffer-zones and corridors
  • Zero tolerance approach to poaching
  • Make political parties accountable for loss of biodiversity.