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Online MarketingThink The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Is Wise? You’re Wrong.

September 8, 2014

About the Ice Bucket Challenge, Matthew Herper wrote an article titled “Think the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is stupid? You’re Wrong” in Forbes some days ago, which inspired me to choose the title of my new article.

Perhaps, the Ice Bucket Challenge can be considered the most successful online viral campaign in social networks which has quickly led many users of those social networks into a bucket of ice. It is fun, exciting, and easy to do an activity which has, of course, been of the most concern for Guys. Now it seems that everyone is involved in this challenge. Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and many not well-known people have joined the campaign. Even if all these are not enough, people who do not believe peace are following this campaign as well. Anyhow it was on August 20 when George W. Bush also joined the campaign, and it is not very unlikely that Ahmadinejad will also do the same. Gaddafi and bin Laden would have also joined this trend if they had been alive!

However, it doesn’t matter what it really looks like. The purpose of this campaign has gone to the margin since it was not much highlighted from the very beginning, and the founders of the campaign had not elucidated it. Now, many active users of social networks are looking for a bucket, and everyone indeed is trying to share his or her unique video with a high probability of hits on YouTube. After all, I personally do not believe that people, even many of those who have joined the campaign, know much about ALS. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge is more like the Wazzup of Budweiser, a campaign that managed to spread a new way for pronouncing What’s up among American people, but it could not enable Budweiser to beat its German opponent Heineken. Probably, it could not even compensate for the cost of the Wazzup Campaign. For the Ice Bucket Challenge Campaign, however, I believe that this challenging campaign is per se facing a major challenge. So, after the ice bucket fever diminishes a bit, we should ask ALS Association, “Hey, Wazzzzzup? But what’s the reason for despair over this cute campaign. Yes! Cute, as I said. My experience has shown me that the very cute campaigns oust the ultimate goal, and despite the loud cries they let out first, they would at the end have a low and frail tone about the money they had made.

In a brief exchange of ideas about this campaign I had with Al Ries, he, while agreeing with me, believes that:

The ice-bucket challenge got buckets of publicity, but not that much money. 

Furthermore, it didn’t say anything about why the ALS Association needs the money. For sufferers? For finding a cure? Or for what? Having said that, the challenge itself is an excellent example of the power of a “visual hammer” in developing an interest in a brand. More companies should create such innovate ideas. But really is our goal of starting a creative campaign making cries? Making cries will be useful only when it turns us into high-flying eagles in our business, but not into a mouse that idiotically runs on an unknown path alongside other mice. The way of every business, even those of nonprofit companies, should lead to earning money and of course, to making a profit.

Today, ALS Association released a report about the total sum it has received this year, which is not more than a few million dollars compared with what it received last year:

 As of Wednesday, August 27, The ALS Association has received $94.3 million in donations compared to $2.7 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 27). These donations have come from existing donors and 2.1 million new donors. (Washington, D.C.,  August 27, 2014)

Now that this campaign seems to have got ubiquitous, we should expect to get so much more. Today, August 28, the time I am writing the final version of this article for which I have been seriously researching and analyzing the campaign, something about six million videos from different people who have joined the campaign have been uploaded on YouTube. However, the most visited video belongs to Bill Gates, with more than 17 million and 700 thousand hits. Ironically, Bill Gates was challenged by the founder of Facebook, but his video has been viewed millions of times more than Mark Zuckerberg.

But why am I claiming that this campaign is unsuccessful in receiving funding? Just keep an account of thumb. We just need to use a rule of thumb. Millions of people have visited the videos of this challenge on YouTube, and nearly six million videos have been made, but only two million and seven hundred thousand people have helped? It was supposed to earn money through this campaign, not to increase the YouTube traffic.

In my opinion, based on what concluded from the above members, this campaign, rather than aiding the ALS Association, has been more helpful for famous figures — making these videos by the prominent figures once more caused that such people return to the minds of their audience and be seen again even for a short moment. But as far as I know, none of these has at least said something to sympathize with people suffering from ALS after their freezing experience. Even in the video that Lady Gaga has taken, the audiences witness a sexy action rather than a social one and due to her indifference when she pours ice water on herself, no informative response is conveyed to the audience.

It’s fascinating that when you want to search the “Ice Bucket Challenge” on YouTube, phrases like “Ice Bucket Challenge Bikini” or “Ice Bucket Challenge Fail” are also suggested. Although this successful campaign has not ended up in a significant amount of money (do not forget that millions of dollars are just for big people, not for institutes or societies), has it at least been successful in transferring the feeling of patients with ALS? It, nevertheless, seems that bikinis have been more noticeable cases.

To me, as a marketing strategist, this situation is not very surprising, and my criticism of bikinis refers to the humanistic aspect of my life rather than the commercial personality I have. But it would be something typical that audiences see millionaires who just pour ice and cold water on themselves and never speak of 100 dollars. Well, audiences think that a millionaire who is challenged by his friends may choose the second option because they are reluctant to pay 100 dollars. If a millionaire is unwilling to donate 100 dollars to a charity, why shouldn’t an ordinary person choose the ice bucket?

This cute campaign has two major shortcomings: one in the tactic and the short run, and the other one in the strategy and the long term. These shortcomings initiate from the campaign’s spokespeople who have voluntarily joined it, spokespeople who all laugh after taking this challenge, and regard it as a fun and fresh experience. Is this disease so much exciting and fun? Although this campaign is the only campaign with so many spokespeople we have ever seen, it makes no difference for a person like Britney Spears what the mass media release about her whether she dumps a bucket of ice water on herself, shaves her head, marries and gets divorced in just 55 hours or kisses Madonna.

The major problem of this campaign is that it has created more opportunities for people rather than the primary goal it originally had! I expect that in the long run, there will be severe consequences for people’s perception of the disease. As this funny and entertaining campaign moves forward, people’s understanding of the disease gets damaged, and it would not be surprising if they believe that not only the disease is not overwhelming, but also it is fascinating and exciting. Now, if the letters h, i, and v in capitals are shown to them with the positive mark, i.e., HIV+, they will start to tremble. But if you tell Guys “ALS”, they just remember the challenge itself; their response would be “Oh yeah! Let’s do it.”

Now the challenge ahead of the ALS Association is to save the Ice Bucket Challenge from the fever raised among the users of social networks. The most famous social networks fever was the Gangnam Style’s with the highest views ever and being recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. The original Gangnam Style video was viewed by more than 2.5 billion people from around the world. The cute Gangnam Style dancing permeated everywhere. Home videos, people’s dances in discos, flash mobs from around the world, and even scenes of Hollywood movies were involved with it. But in the end, what happened to the cute Gangnam Style? It met the fate of the same fate of all cute ones. We must see what the result would be when the fever dies down.

Anyway, although I’ve not yet been nominated for this challenge by any of my friends, I will preferably choose the main option instead of the Ice Bucket Challenge. That is, I will pay $100 that I do not know what that association needs it for. The next nominee this one-optioned and one-hundred-dollar challenge are YOU!
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