Kim Kardashian broke the Internet once. Ask her to participate in your charity, and she might break that, too. What was trending around Walgreens' Red Nose Day, a multi-channel effort to raise money for children in poverty-stricken areas all over the world, was not exactly the red noses. But perhaps the slight controversy is a small boon for the campaign, which culminates this evening in a celebrity-studded variety show on NBC, and seeks to support well-known partner charities like United Way and OxFam to funnel money to children who need it.
Red Nose Day offers a lesson in exposure. Give a man a red nose, and he shall post a selfie. The advertising took care of itself. The star power helps, of course. Today, #RedNoseDay is a top trend on Twitter, with everyone coming out to show off the round rubber nose -- The Statue of Liberty, Nick Cannon, dogs.
While this is the first time Red Nose Day has launched in the U.S., it is actually a long-running tradition organized by the group Comedic Relief UK, which began in 1985 with a live broadcast from a refugee camp in Sudan. In the British version, celebrities are known to go to extra lengths of absurdity for the sake of the cause. The result has been splashy sketches aired on television that were much-talked about after, such as Ali G's uncomfortable interview with then-'it' couple Victoria and David Beckham. When the topic of charity is usually treated with the most delicate of kid gloves, Red Nose Day's strategy has been to gain attention using surprising moments of candor and humor.
Though it remains to be seen whether tonight's entertainment will follow in those footsteps, Walgreens has already been using guerrilla-type tactics in its marketing for the campaign. By enlisting a fleet of improv singers to pose as cashiers at their major locations, they surprised average customers who look -- you can't say thrilled, exactly -- to be treated to a full musical spectacle after buying a bottle of water. Notably, though, in the video there's a score of innocent bystanders with their cell phones out, snapping photos and videos of the event as it occurs, and thereby giving the campaign a needed boost on social.
Not all companies are Walgreens, and perhaps not all of us have One Direction's phone number in our contacts list (even if some of us might wish we did). But as consumers tire of traditional print and digital marketing, all companies should be thinking of creative ways to market their brands on the street -- where the people are.