It began with a series of videos. Then it went viral. Random people dumping buckets of ice on their heads in order to get attention – and, hopefully, bring attention to various charitable causes. Those who get doused are encouraged to “pass it on.” As a PR stunt, Ronn Torossian says this trend has feet. What it lacks, Torossian argues, is substance.
Sure, people are going to watch other people doing something fun and a little bit silly. And, yes, other people are going to give it a shot. But then nothing much happens. This presence in place of substance is so prevalent in today’s Video Everywhere culture that it even has a name – Slacktivism. The pejorative relates to simple, purportedly charitable, actions that don’t actually accomplish anything. And they are everywhere. When NFL players are sporting neon pink socks for “awareness,” then you know a cause is in grave danger of jumping the shark.
But that doesn’t mean an idea that might lean toward slacktivism doesn’t have merit. Even the ice bucket challenge can make a difference if applied in the proper context. While a charity cannot coerce people to give, they could create fun ways to encourage donations and volunteering based on activities as simple as the ice bucket challenge. In a world of immediacy and microdonations, you don’t always need massive events to bring in the bucks.
That’s not to say major events are not worthwhile. Statistics bear out exactly how profitable major events can be, and that doesn’t seem likely to change. But there is a large – and largely untapped – generation out there who looks at, and engages with, the world in a very different way. You reach those folks with ice buckets.