Wednesday, 01 October 2014

Engaging thoughts

All posts tagged: charity

Doing something funny for money? Is Comic Relief's relationship with brands going too far?

Mon, 14 Mar 2011

It’s that time of year again. The Comic Relief bandwagon rolls into town this week with Red Nose Day 2011 and your chance to do something “funny for money”.

But increasingly it feels like the tagline should be: “Buy something funny, slightly funny or only vaguely connected with the event…for money”. Red Nose Day – like most major charities – has become intrinsically bound up with major retail brands.

We’re not knocking Comic Relief. Far from it. It’s a fantastic charity doing amazing work and we’re sporting our own red noses as we write. The association with major brands and retailers is logical; it spreads the word about the event and, through mass product marketing, adds significantly to the charity’s coffers. And, at a time when charities are suffering because of the economic downturn, we understand that perfectly. Indeed, where there has been a long term association with a brand – for example Sainsbury’s and TK Maxx with Comic Relief or Tesco’s ten-year support for the Race for Life – the relationship seems perfectly natural.

But more so than ever this year, it seems, there are Comic Relief products on our shelves that make you question the extent of genuine altruism and the extent to which there is a rush for any brand to link itself to Comic Relief. Has the charity reached brand overload this year and does the consumer see through that?

So far this year, I’ve eaten my Jimmy Con Carrne and Stephen Fry-up crisps for Comic Relief, munched on my Kellogg’s Comic Relief Rice Krispies Squares with edible noses, supported the Mini Babybel and Comic Relief Guinness World Record attempt for the most jokes told in a one-hour relay, washed my clothes with a special pack of Ariel Liquitab, eaten some Carte D’or Chocolate Inspiration Comic Relief ice cream, spread Comic Relief Flora Buttery spread on my bread to have with my salad – and that’s dressed with Hellmann’s Balsamic Salad Dressing, with a proportion of the price going to Comic Relief. I’ve even sprayed myself with Impulse True Love Body Fragrance and seen 5p from the special pack donated to Comic Relief. You have to question whether any brand is really recognised for its association with the charity in such a crowded field.

This in itself isn’t inherently wrong. Comic Relief is a great national event, a time for everyone – brands included – to come together in a combined endeavour.

But there is a risk here for brands. The more crowded the charity association, the more likely it is that brand will be perceived to be associating simply to avoid being seen as not associating.

Charities and brands should be a natural fit, but it may sit better with consumers for brands to build their alliances with charities with which there isn’t such an obvious commercial clamour. The brand still fulfils its CSR obligation, a needy cause still benefits and yet the brand creates some stand-out from the crowd and becomes a leader rather than a follower. Plus, and I say this still wearing my nose, there are other causes worthy of brands’ support.