What Can the Pink Ribbon Learn from the Ice Bucket?

I want to start off by saying that this is a very personal subject for me.   I lost my partner Randy to ALS earlier this year.  He bravely fought the disease for nine years, he was 42 years old.   Also, this summer my dear high-school friend Stephanie died after fighting breast cancer for many years.   As you can imagine, this has had a profound impact on my life. And, as a marketer, it is hard to bridge the two worlds because this is so personal. But to fight horrible diseases you need to do whatever it takes in order to help find a cure.

So after an incredible summer of ALS Ice Bucket Challenges, I think it’s important to review this zeitgeist moment in order to learn.  On the dawn of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I think it’s also interesting to compare and contrast the grassroots ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with years of “Pink” efforts to support Breast Cancer. This can help not just ALS and Breast Cancer, but all diseases in need of research and direct patient care funding.

Here are some key points:

  • Keep it real.   In all the hoopla around the Ice Bucket Challenge, it’s important to remember that it was started by ALS survivors Pat Quinn and Pete Frates. Both men have given a “name and a face” to a disease that never had one and that is the real story.
  • Keep it honest. It can be argued that Breast Cancer Awareness Month has become a bastion of “pink washing” and companies using the platform to market their products. That may be true, and it may be time to take the Breast Cancer movement down to studs and start from the beginning. Make it about the patients, the survivors and curing the disease.
  • Keep it simple, keep it focused. Former New Orleans Saint star player Steve Gleason is an ALS survivor and founder of the organization Team Gleason. Team Gleason provides leading-edge technology for people with ALS and advocates for a cure. Steve’s mission is simple, focused and he has raised millions of dollars, long before there was one Ice Bucket Challenge.
  • Keep it with “the people.” Sure, people can walk, run and ride to support Breast Cancer and ALS cause efforts. However, it can be argued that they don’t truly own these events like they personally owned the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s important to remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was created by the people, for the people. It was not created by a non-profit organization, or a company or a marketing firm. That’s its glory and one of the key reasons it resonated and raised more than $110 million for ALS in a very short timeframe.

My hope is that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge will be a force to change the way we advocate and fundraise on behalf of all diseases that have no cure and need the support. It’s about people helping people and we need to keep it that way.

This contributed blog post was written by PAN Communications Vice President of Consumer Mark Manlinowski.