ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

To the Naysayers of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – an Open Letter from a Marketer

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, you’re aware of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The campaign created, literally, a big splash, not only in non-profit fundraising but in the marketing world too.

The reactions have been mostly positive, but as always there are a few naysayers with several negative comments about this campaign such as:

  • It’s a waste of fresh water
  • People are just having fun, and don’t care about the cause
  • People are using the challenge to avoid donating hard cash. Imagine if all those silly folks actually donated money.
  • There are more important causes than ALS.
  • (Worst of all) I am not an American, so why should I (or anyone) be bothered about an American charity fundraising campaign? I’d rather donate to a local charity.

So, as a marketer, here’s my response.

For a moment, let’s forget about the great ’cause’ behind this campaign, and look at it from the point of view solely of marketing ROI.

If we consider that a donation is basically a ‘conversion’, the success rate is staggering. Compared to last year’s campaign, which raised under $2 million, this year’s raised over $30 million. Most of the people I know donated cash and took the challenge.

Beyond just conversion, there is a bigger factor – awareness. Truth be told, I’d never heard of ALS before this campaign. So we can safely assume that even those who didn’t donate Googled ALS. That’s not a small win. They also contributed to the viral spread of the campaign by challenging three more people.

So, again from a marketing point of view, I have yet to see such a successful campaign for non-profit fundraising. It’s fun and challenging (but not too tough), with an built-in contagious (and fun!) factor.

[Check out the good folks at GetIT Comms/B2Bento taking the Ice Bucket Challenge (and yes, we donated too)!]

Now, taking OFF my marketers hat:

  • Gallons of fresh water are wasted every day in water parks, but nobody bats an eye… you know the rest.
  • Having fun is not against the cause. If you don’t believe me, hear it from an ALS patient.
  • Many people took the challenge and donated cash.
  • Other causes can learn from this campaign and rethink their fundraising strategy. And just because fewer people suffer from ALS than breast cancer, that doesn’t mean it’s a less important cause. Humanity fails when we start looking at people through statistical lenses.
  • I’ll not dignify the last point (American vs local causes) by answering it.


Anol has over 18 years of experience in consulting hi-tech and telco clients in the field of B2B marketing strategy.

He is a regular columnist in various print and online newspapers, such as Business Times, Straits Times, Marketing Interactive, Asia One, MIS Asia, and CIO Asia

Anol has given keynote addresses, and been a panelist, at BMA (Chicago), Canalys, SES (Hong Kong and Singapore), Click Asia Summit (Mumbai), AdTech (Singapore), SiTF Workshops, etc.

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