Marketing is about branding and what better way to get your company name out there than by affiliating your business with a significant calendar event such as ANZAC Day. However, if you don’t follow the rules both morally and legally, you could wind up in big trouble which is what supermarket giant, Woolworths, has recently discovered.

Tugging on both the heartstrings and the power of social media, Woolworths latched onto the centenary of Anzac Day and launched their ‘Fresh In Our Memories’ campaign. This entailed people to upload images of their fallen heroes into a profile picture generator which embedded the Woolworths logo onto the image. People were then encouraged to use this Woolworths branded image as their social media profile picture.

There are so many things wrong with this tactic it’s hard to find any possible positive outcome this campaign could’ve had. But like most mistakes, the rest of us can learn from it when using a token occasion for our own marketing purposes.

Ensure the event is not trademarked or requires written permission to be used

What many people may not realise, that the term ‘Anzac’ can only be used to provide commercial benefit to an organisation. Written government approval is required if this is the case.  This should not be confused with having a ‘Christmas Sale’ or Easter campaign but more so when the event is specific to one group or body of people. Another example would be using the official ‘Superbowl’ logo in promotional materials.

Ensure your campaign is complimentary to the event

There can be a fine line between clever marketing and bad taste. In this day and age, marketing can tend to reach for the ‘shock’ factor in an attempt to stand out from competitors but this can very easily backfire, as Woolworths has discovered.  The ‘brand’ of Anzac was not receiving any benefit by having a Woolworths logo stamped over images. There was no donations or profits from Woolworths being committed to Veteran Affairs.  There are ways to work with events and not exploit them.  Also you need to stop and think, does your brand actually have any relevance to the event?

Ensure your campaign is sensitive to those who are immediately affected

Some events are a lot more sensitive than others for example State of Origin compared to Remembrance Day. Anzac Day is a particularly important day for Australians and New Zealanders all around the world, some of whom who have direct ties to the Anzacs. This is a very sensitive and important event and needs to be acknowledged with respect and dignity.  Other events such as Red Nose Day, Daffodil Day and White Balloon Day are all tied to a specific cause and message and also deal with sensitive issues. There is a difference between raising an awareness and sitting on the coat-tails of a particular event or campaign. Stop and think, what are your honest intentions and proposed outcome for using a particular event for marketing your business? Are you going to offend those who are directly involved or help them with their cause.

What this all comes down to is common sense and sensitivity. There are many businesses out there with good intentions who do amazing things to raise awareness for causes, organisations and local events but there is a protocol that should be followed. Do your research and contact the relevant authorities associated with the event to ensure there is little chance of a social (or legal) backlash.

You want your business to be remembered for good intentions – not bad tastes.