For millions in donations, just add cold water

August 20, 2014

As the Ice Bucket challenges takes over social media, some are questioning it’s value – which is huge for ALS research.

No matter where you looked over the past couple weeks – on TV, online and over social media – you couldn’t help but notice all the videos of people dumping buckets of cold water over their heads.  It looked like everyone was having fun, and it was all for a good cause – to support research the ALS Association and their efforts to help treat and prevent Lou Gehrig’s disease.

But, were many of these people just taking their 5 minutes in the spotlight rather than helping support a deserving cause? True, the original intent of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge seemed to get lost by many along the way. The ice bath was a truth or dare type challenge in lieu of donating actual money - $100 - to ALS.  But, even if most of the participants don’t know why they’re dumping cold water on their heads it doesn’t matter.  Awareness of the challenge has been raised sky high and the ALS Association has raised over $23 million in the last three weeks – ten times what they raised in the same time period last year.

What are some marketing lessons that small business owners can take home from this successful fundraising promotion?

  • The first goal is awareness – The biggest challenge with any publicity/promotion campaign is getting noticed.  If you don’t do this, all of your insightful supporting messages will fall on deaf ears.  The Ice Bucket challenge was participatory and easily sharable over social, creating a network effect that quickly amplified awareness, participation and donations.
  • There’s no time to explain – Too often, organizations become overly concerned with cramming a overwhelming number of messages into their communications to ensure nothing is left behind.  This takes away focus from the critical headline that grabs people’s attention to start with.  Keep it intriguing and simple to break through.  $100 or a bucket or water on your head.
  • Make sure everyone is invited – A lot of people see videos of teenagers dumping ice water on their heads on Facebook and wonder how this is supporting ALS research.  Yes, the idea is to donate $100 or take an ice bath and then challenge others to do the same. Creating an activity open to all (even if they didn’t donate) helped spread the message much farther than it would have with a monetary barrier to entry.  Nobody likes to be excluded, so include everyone and let the crowd work for you.

It’s great to see so much money donated to a worthy cause, and a respected charity.  And, we can all learn lessons about how to get your cause to rise above the noise. For more insight, check out these quick to implement marketing tactics.