Charity: Comic Relief - How Red Nose Day Made the Competition Irrelevant for Decades

Published 30 Nov 2018
Reference 6431
Topic Strategy
Region Europe

Charity fundraising in the UK was a deep red ocean when Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day started. Costs were up and donations were down. To stand out from the crowd, organizations had to work harder at fundraising and marketing. Yet Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day rapidly achieved 96 percent national brand awareness and has now raised over £1 billion without spending anything on marketing. Its flagship event, held once every two years, is almost a national holiday in the UK. The case reveals how Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day redefined the problem of the charity-giving industry - from how to get the wealthy to give out of guilt, to how to get everyone 'to do something funny for money' - thus reconstructing the market boundaries. It understood how to create new demand by looking to nondonors and what turned them off (the blocks to giving). In so doing, it erected formidable barriers to imitation - cognitive, organisational, economic and legal. Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day enduring success relies on the alignment of its value, profit and people propositions. It can be used to teach the following Blue Ocean concepts: (1) the Buyer Utility Map; (2) the Three Tiers of Noncustomers; (3) Barriers to Imitation; and (4) Disruptive versus nondisruptive creation. This case comes with a teaching note and a short video showing students what Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day is. The video can be downloaded for teaching purposes from

Teaching objectives

• The central importance of noncustomers as a way to gain insights into how to create new demand and generate new growth. Instead of fighting for a greater percentage of existing donors, Comic Relief looked to noncustomers and what turned them off charitable giving, uncovering the major pain points imposed by the industry. This gave critical insight into how to open up new market space - a blue ocean of noncustomers • Barriers to imitation Barriers to imitation effectively prolong the sustainability of a blue ocean strategy, in this case the alignment of value, profit and people propositions, and cognitive, organizational, brand, economic and legal barriers – keeping challengers for many years. • Market creating-strategies are not synonymous with disruptive creation. Rather than replacing an earlier technology or existing product or service, Blue Ocean Shift | Strategy goes beyond disruption to embrace what Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne call “nondisruptive creation” of a new market and with it new growth. While Comic Relief triggered a measure of disruption, it principally unlocked nondisruptive creation, where its gain didn’t come at the expense of others.

  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Fundraising
  • Social services
  • Blue ocean strategy
  • Charity
  • Red Nose Day
  • Comic Relief
  • Blue Ocean Shift
  • nondisruptive creation
  • noncustomers
  • Disruptive creation
  • Non-disruptive creation
  • Barriers to imitation
  • Noncustomers
  • Market creating strategy
  • Strategy
  • Competition
  • Q11819