Samsung’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have somehow managed to avoid the internet, television, newspaper, or people in general, you’ve most likely heard of, watched a video of, or even participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Several weeks ago Samsung decided to take part in the pop culture phenomenon that has inundated social networks.  However, the company’s motives for participating in the challenge have come under scrutiny, as many believe that Samsung was using the challenge to promote and show off their product, rather than raise awareness to a cause.

This challenge was not limited to your average social media user: celebrities, athletes, CEOs, politicians, and even fictional characters (e.g. Kermit the Frog, Homer Simpson) have participated in the challenge, which has led to an immense increase in donations. As of September 12, the ALS Association reported having received $112.4 million in Ice Bucket Challenge donations (“ALS Association”).

And so, with the widespread popularity of the challenge, Samsung decided to jump on the bandwagon (despite the fact of not actually being nominated by someone). But it wasn’t Samsung’s CEO or employees who poured the ice water over their heads—it was the Samsung Galaxy S5 that did so. In the 15 second video published on the SamsungMobileUK YouTube site, ice water is poured on the Galaxy S5 which then nominates the iPhone 5S, the HTC One M8 and the Nokia Lumia 930. The overall message of the video: none of the Samsung rivals have water resistant phones.

Samsung’s use of the Ice Bucket Challenge to promote a product leaves many people in disgust. And sure, using a campaign (that’s meant to raise money and awareness for a disease) to advertise a product and belittle the competition is probably not the best way to promote your brand. However, as Laura Stampler so correctly titled her Time article, this situation is just another example of “Brands being Brands”. Like countless numbers of companies in the past, Samsung attempted to take advantage of a viral sensation.

Despite exhibiting some poor taste, Samsung did not ostensibly violate the “Rules of Engagement” as outlined in Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach. Although social media profiles were not created for use by marketers to promote a message (or act as billboards), social media has ultimately become another platform to reach consumers. Samsung used its Twitter page and YouTube page to post about a product, just as many other tech companies do. Samsung comes fairly close to violating the “Talk About the Topic” rule by promoting the S5’s waterproof ability instead of spreading awareness for ALS. However, because they didn’t outwardly say how the S5 is waterproof and its competitors’ products are not, Samsung isn’t necessarily bragging. They also didn’t use the video to discuss other specs about the phone, which keeps the video from acting as a billboard. In the info section under the YouTube video, Samsung posted “We are calling out all of our followers for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Our Galaxy S5 just did it for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. Donate here”. By including the link for donations, Samsung is attempting to relate back to the original purpose of the challenge and is also encouraging others to donate.

I don’t believe that this video will have much of a negative effect on Samsung’s business, as there are probably many people who have not seen it or even heard about it. Even for those who do know about it, I don’t think it will stop them from purchasing Samsung products. People hold the mentality that “If it’s a good phone, I’ll buy it” and they won’t be easily swayed away by a situation unrelated to the product itself. The video might actually be a good thing for the company by showing people that the phone is waterproof (something I did not know before).

If Samsung was a big topic of conversation among people because of its [somewhat controversial] Ice Bucket Challenge video, there’s a good chance it isn’t anymore. Apple’s keynote on September 9th not only introduced the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, but it was revealed that Apple paired with U2 to give more than 500 million iTunes customers worldwide the new U2 album for free.


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