Businesses are not Matt Damon, why marketers should avoid the ice bucket challenge

Just when you thought you’d heard enough about the ice bucket challenge, Matt Damon throws a bucket of toilet water over his head and we’re off again with challenges to George Clooney and Bono setting the wheels spinning … but businesses should not get involved if marketing is the motivation.

Dousing yourself in cold water for charity has origins in both New Zealand and North America with people jumping in lakes or throwing buckets of water over themselves to raise money for their favourite causes. In July, the host of NBC’s the today show Matt Lauer participated on air after a challenge from golfer Greg Norman. Next was golfer Chris Kennedy the first to douse in the name of ALS. The #IceBucketChallenge was created and the rest is history.

The ALS Association received USD $94.3 million in donations since July 29th, however in a matter of weeks the tides turned away from ALS to supporting other causes with Pamela Anderson refusing to do the challenge debating ALS research methods and even Australian news anchor Lincoln Humphries “going viral” by encouraging people to give to charities they care about.

Opinions aside, the #IceBucketChallenge has made charitable giving a hot topic. People are talking about the charities they care about and why they care about them. There are also people out there looking to make a decision about what charity to give to. There is a short window of opportunity for charities, although it has to be managed and pitched carefully.

This week I’ve been asked if brands should “get on the bandwagon,” and my answer is no.

Any brand that is not genuine in its approach to supporting charities, exposes itself to risk and potential backlash.

Riding the wave of popularity for the sake of it or for company gain will be seen as manipulative marketing. However, if your organisation has causes that it is genuinely passionate about and staff that are genuinely engaged, this is an opportunity to generate new and engaging content.

However if you are going to get involved, don’t hang about. Do it soon and take a unique angle, as you don’t want to be the last one to the party.

Read this article at The Australian Financial Review.

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