Brands that could be considered sacrosanct are not immune from criticism – and sometimes from the most unexpected quarters.
This year’s Poppy Appeal, staged annually around the time of Remembrance Sunday to raise money for the work of the Royal British Legion, has attracted fire from veterans who accuse it of “showbiz hype” and being a “drum roll of support for current wars”.
The former military personnel claim that the true purpose of the poppy – to remind people of the “horror and futility of war is forgotten and ignored”.
The Royal British Legion fired back in its defence: “We are the natural custodians of remembrance but we are living in contemporary society…there is nothing in our appeal or campaigning which supports or, does not support, war: we are totally neutral.”
Nevertheless, it’s a tough one to defend when those who, in theory, should champion your cause take arms against it.
But do the veterans have a point? Does launching a campaign around a serious and sombre subject with girl group, The Saturdays, diminish its solemnity? Does it devalue the message that those who died in battle were the victims of human folly and we shouldn’t forget the stupidity of war?
But the risk the Poppy Appeal runs by looking trendy is nothing new. Eyebrows were raised in 1997 when the Spice Girls – at the height of Girl Power mania – were used to make the campaign more appealing to young people in light of falling revenues. But, as this PR Week analysis at the time shows, the risky move paid off.
It’s a balance the British Legion needs to strike; between being seen to muddy the message about war and being able to fund ongoing help for our military victims of conflict. And as the last remaining veterans from World War 2, and their tales of all-encompassing conflict touching millions, pass away, the more remote we become from the topic of war.
The Poppy Appeal is taking a pragmatic approach that clearly doesn’t please everyone. But if that means getting the judges of the currently most watched TV programme X Factor to wear poppies – prompting questions on Twitter as to what they are – the British Legion is making the best job of a sensitive situation.