Grassroots Cause Marketing from Volvo

Buy a virtual glass of lemonade from, sponsored by Volvo, and the money goes to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to support families who must travel for their child’s cancer treatments.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, is named for Alex Scott, who in the year 2000 at the age of 4 announced to her parents that pediatric cancer must be cured and to do her part she was going to sell lemonade from a stand. Alex herself suffered from neuroblastoma and died in 2004 at the tender age of 8. By then she had already raised $1 million for cancer research.

Now a 501(c)(3) charity, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, has generated $35 million for cancer research, $12 million of it from lemonade stands.

Volvo’s relationship with ALSF began in 2002 when Alex was nominated for the inaugural Volvo for Life Awards. She won it in 2003. And in 2004 Volvo dealers helped Alex meet her goal to raise $1 million for pediatric cancer research before the year end. Sadly, Alex died in August 2004. But inspired by her determination, Volvo dealers pitched in and helped Alex surpass her goal. At left is an ad from the Alden Keene Cause Marketing Database that gives a little more background on the relationship.

Volvo does an annual national car raffle for ALSF. And Volvo seeded the with a $200,000 donation. There’s a counter on the site, which came online in time for Christmas 2010, that says: “As of today, 213,688 cups have been purchased.”

Assuming everyone paid $1 a cup that means that the virtual lemonade stand has generated $13,688 above and beyond Volvo’s donation.

If true, that has to be a disappointment for both ALSF and Volvo. The problem, in my view, is that too often these virtual icon campaigns don’t offer quite enough. These promotions can seem thin. Recognizing this, the MDA, a few years back, added a free musical download to people who bought their virtual shamrock. But I’m not sure that’s enough any more.

The site does offer the usual social media ways of distributing the purchased lemonade cup; email, Facebook and Twitter. But by itself, plain vanilla social media isn’t enough either.

Imagine instead a game. Maybe the cups of lemonade are launched at a penguin, Alex’s favorite animal, whose thirst can’t seem to be slaked. Think Angry Birds. You play the game for a $1 donation and your score is posted on Twitter and Facebook. You get extra plays for more money or for sending links to friends in your social network. The game would have levels and would be able to remember where you left off.

This is more involved in every way than the simple website Volvo has posted, but also more involving. Done right the game would be sticky. Something users would return to again and again.

Lastly, Happy Birthday to my own Alex!

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