Key Thoughts of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Cause Marketing and Cross-Promotion
I commend ALS for the success of its inadvertent ALS Ice Bucket ChallengeIce Bucket Challenge grassroots campaign. What started out as a single video plea from an afflicted ALS person first diagnosed with the disease at age 26, has turned into one of the best examples of a successful grassroots fundraising and awareness campaign of a horrific disease with no known cure. Of course, this is my “Sparked” opinion, but I’m sure savvy marketers, non-profit organizations and corporate heads of state will agree.
While we have all enjoyed partaking in and viewing everyone’s videos on Facebook, as a marketing communications professional dedicated to promoting, among other things, non-profit organizations, I feel compelled to highlight what ALS Disease is to the masses.
ALS Disease, formerly known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and informally known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. Most commonly, ALS strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time.
Throughout this viral grassroots fundraising and awareness campaign, I have observed some of the best and worst cross-promotion tactics performed by corporate America. The best examples are celebrities and music groups who jumped on the band wagon to, yes, promote their personal brand, while simultaneously bringing attention to the ALS cause and/or also donating to the cause. Recently, I was at an outdoor Beach Boys concert at Ravinia Festival where lead singer Mike Love took the Ice Bucket Challenge on stage and also announced his Love Foundation would donate $5,000 to the cause. I also give kudos to the Alice Cooper Band as each band member partook in the challenge and spoke of personal friends who are afflicted by the disease.
Worst examples include any corporation or brand that has used this devastating disease to promote a new product or their namesake. I will not point out who they are in this post, but I find this tactic despicable and extremely distasteful. Marketing 101 – never capitalize on someone else’s tragedy.
Lastly, I did partake in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge while I was on a mini-vacation day in Chicago. On a whim, I asked my waiter to pour the ice bucket on me and the waitress to video it on my phone. I chose to promote the restaurant and city of Chicago, both of which I was not paid for, but just for the joy of it. Feel free to take a look at my random attempt in this video: http://bit.ly/SparksALSICE