Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day and for my generation growing up in the United Kingdom and now Australia the poppy has come to symbolise the sacrifice of millions of men and women in the first world war and other wars.

You will see poppies pinned to the lapels of news readers, businessmen, youthful schoolchildren and ageing war veterans. You definitely won’t see any politician in front a camera without one.

What does Remembrance Day and poppies have to do with a marketing, branding and communications blog I here you ask? Good question, lets find out.


The poppy was inspired by the poem of a Canadian World War I medical officer, John McCrae, who died in 1918.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row.

An American woman, Moina Michael, was so impressed by the above poem that she persuaded American ex-servicemen to adopt the poppy as their emblem. French and British veteran groups followed. By 1921 more than a million red poppies were sold each year. They raised much-needed funds for men damaged by war: the gassed, the maimed, the crippled, the insane. The poppy was originally created as a symbol of reverence and it very quickly became a source of income for the various veterans organisations seeking to raise money to support war veterans.

To keep supporting veterans and help future generations remember there sacrifice, Remembrance Day has in part become enduring cause related marketing campaign. The day of course is what it is, a day of remembrance. But cause marketing has come in over time to support its efforts as companies and organisations have seen the benefits of associating themselves with the poppy.

Here are 5 simple truths that Remembrance Day is teaching me about cause marketing:

1. An enduring cause will have a timeless message

The timeless message of the poppy campaign is one of sacrifice and duty. The message has been passed down from generation to generation. It has lost no power, no relevance to any of the countries that observe Remembrance Day. In Australia you now see grand children and great grand children marching with their ancestors medals pinned on their chests. Those memories will continue that timeless message.

2. An enduring cause will own an instantly recognisable symbol

The poppy is the brand mark of an enduring cause related marketing campaign. The poppy was originally adopted because it was in poppy fields where many brave soldiers died in combat for freedom.

But then you already knew that didn’t you? That is exactly my point. Instant recognition and back story. The sign of a great enduring symbol.

The symbol is embedded as a genesis type of story into the cultural fabric. Most of us are aware of how the poppy came into being. It is much more than just a brand, it more of a symbol of the cause. When you see the poppy you immediately think of veterans, sacrifice, honour and what they did for your country.

3. An enduring cause owns a calendar day to rally around

I blogged earlier this week about how one company leveraged it’s link with a day on the calendar to create its own brand day (even if the cause is a superficial commercial one!). Every cause needs to do the same. If you own a day you can leverage that for free media which is priceless in the tough world of raising money to keep your cause alive. You will hear of world AIDs day or Cancer awareness month. Ownership of the calendar helps the cause have a regular focal point in its awareness and marketing calendar.

One of the best cause related marketing campaigns I’ve seen recently is Movember. They have effectively leveraged a whole month for their cause! Brilliant! Instead of one day to raise money around try 30 days!

There are no rules here. No official body that will dish out a day to your cause. So grab a day and make it yours!

4. An enduring cause is boosted by celebrity support

In today’s media saturated world it helps to have allies to cut through the clutter and noise of media. In the case of the Poppy campaign they are using famous sports stars like Andy Murray and TV celebrities like Helen Mirren. Another cause that uses celebrity pulling power is RED and Make Poverty History. They have as their high-profile celebrity non other than Bono. BAM! Global star power. The pay off for both parties is great. Celebrities get known for being something greater than just being a sportsperson or TV star.

Andy Murray Poppy Day

Recently the poppy cause got massive support because the English football team were going to wear the poppy (cause marketing dream match!) and FIFA tried to ban it. Prince William and the Prime Minister intervened and FIFA have changed their stance. The free publicity in spend around that alone would be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, not to mention having 2 of the highest profile men in the country backing you in a dispute. Here is a list of how England team is integrating the poppy into it’s next game on Saturday

5. An enduring cause will give you more opportunities to give

Poppies in lapels are very popular. No doubt about it. As I said in my introduction you will see politicians, celebrities, news readers, business men wearing them. But by buying only a poppy would have been limiting people’s opportunities to give. That is why Poppy UK has extended the poppy brand into jewellery, clothing, home-ware, gifts and other products.

One coffee brand has also co-branded their packaging and will donate some of the proceeds of each sale towards the Poppy campaign. Another skin care product has also hopped on the cause related marketing band wagon.

By widening their giving base they will increase their overall revenue because they also make people feel good about buying ordinary every day products because it helps people.

If I think about what I do at the moment much of it is cause marketing. My cause:

– Has an enduring message – ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, not to condemn the world, but to save it.’

– Has an enduring symbol – The Cross.

– Owns two calendar day(s) Christmas AND Easter 😉

– Has numerous celebrity supporters, but who needs them really when you have Jesus? The most recognisable name in the world.

– Provides many opportunities to broaden giving. The church I serve at always has a campaign to help someone somewhere in the community, both overseas and local. People rally around helping people.

How about you? What cause marketing have you seen that you like or dislike? Are you involved in cause marketing in some way? Tell us what you do!

Photo credit