Ice cubes

There is no denying the viral success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but what is the role for brands in this conversation?

The tidal wave of ice water and good intentions washing over the internet this month has given everyone a lot to think about. 1% of which as been the devastating effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the other 99% being who is going to be challenged next, and why do I keep watching every single one of these things?

While the $80M raised by the phenomena is commendable, it was only a matter of time before opportunistic marketers jump on the trend to put their spin on the spectacle. Don’t get us wrong, as marketers we recognize the temptation to participate in something so socially potent. Yet somehow it feels like going to a friend’s birthday party and blowing out their candles. Clearly the companies participating in the challenge only wish to be seen as genuine, timely and relevant, but every execution we’ve seen feels anything but. Tacky, sad and desperate are the words that come to mind. What’s worse is that the actual intent of, you know, raising money for ALS seems all but a forgettable side note. Even KFC, the extra crispy arm of the multi-billion dollar Yum Foods was only willing to put up $10,000. Seriously?

birthday candles

That’d just be mean.

Alright, enough lambasting. How can it be done better?  Our answer is threefold. 1. Make a genuine contribution relative to your size. 2. Relate the stunt to your brand’s actual values. Sticking with the KFC example, since their mission in recent TV spots has been advocating for family meal time, why not pledge $100 for every family that does the challenge together?

Lastly, rather than call out other competitors for an equally impersonal chance at the spotlight, why not sponsor an actual individual or family dealing with ALS and put a real human face on your efforts rather than a clown, or a colonel.

In case you’re not as frustrated as we are, here are some examples of what we mean:

Tyler is Cazarin's master copywriter, but beyond the limericks and powerful headlines lies a marketing strategist to be reckoned with. His passions include branding, the impending doom of old-school SEO, and fine leather shoes.