Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Marvelous Marketing of the Ice Bucket Challenge

Wherever you turn, it’s there - the ASL ice bucket challenge™. The concept is simple: someone dares you either to douse yourself with a bucket full of water and ice or send $100 to the ALS Association. You in turn dare others to the same challenge; they also have 24 hours to respond or make the donation.

In our social media age, the challenge spread like wildfire. People of all walks of life across continents joined in, including a flock of tech moguls, politicians, actors, musicians and other celebrities. Most of those both took the challenge and donated money.

The result up till now is spectacular – donations rose from $2.1m in 2013 to over $50m in 2014. However, critics have pointed out the number of ALS sufferers is only a fraction of people dying of heart disease (596,577 in 2011), cancer (576,691) or Alzheimer’s (84,974) annually. This means that charities such as the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Alzheimer’s Association are “losing out”.

For now, ASL is for now the charity du jour, not in the least due to savvy marketing and PR.
  • The timing is perfect – August is always one of the slowest months for news
  • Positive message – with daily coverage of human suffering in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine et al, people crave feel-good news
  • Social media – posting videos, tweeting, pinning, liking, sharing, etc makes it a global phenomena taking place in near real-time
  • Great personal PR – especially celebrities use the challenge for their own branding and promotion
  • Reality TV aspect - looking at Oprah Winfrey screaming her head off or Benedict Cumberbatch being punked.
It’s a matter of time before this fad will be over. Participants are already daring people they want to get even with in the hope that those will make a fool of themselves on camera.
The challenge is also not without risks - four firefighters in Kentucky were seriously injured when it went wrong.

The main question remains: apart from balls, banquets, runs, walks, rides, auctions, and the current challenge- what new marketing gimmick will be next for non-profits to raise funds?

(Image courtesy of Among Tech)

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