Which brands will ride on the tattered coat tails of the London riots?

Lara O’Reilly is Marketing Week’s digital and telecoms specialist and here she gives her own view on what companies from Apple to Zynga are up to in the wired world of the web.

As the fires across London begin to burn out, Twitter is still ignited with talk about last night’s (8 August) unrest across the capital and other UK cities.

But while the public has taken to the social networking sites to vent their outrage at the looting and general mass thuggery, brands have been remarkably quiet about sharing their points of view so far.

With the News of the World phone hacking scandal not yet forgotten, when brands in their droves trumpeted their ethical standpoints and denounced their associations with the sullied brand, it seems odd that on this occasion brands have been markedly quiet on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

A riot clean up has been organised today for communities to clear up the yobs’ mess and right their upturned high streets (Follow the #riotcleanup hash tag or www.riotcleanup.com for information about how to help in your local area). Hopefully a few positive media images can be printed from all the mess.

Let’s place our bets on how long it will be before a home improvement strore or garden centre donates some brooms or a supermarket offers their cleaning products to help with the efforts.

Last night on Twitter it seemed that anyone who took to the streets in opposition to the rioters was a hero (See: “fearless West Indian woman” , the Turkish communities of Stoke Newington and Dalston protecting their businesses and Sky journalist Mark Stone asking rioters if their activities in Clapham Junction were “fun” ).

I wonder which brands will be the first to step up to the fold and take that mantle, in a similar way that brands like Renault were praised by consumers for dissassociating themselves with News International.

Am I being a tad cynical? Let’s check this evening and tomorrow’s newspapers.


I also noticed some brands were using the London Riots to speak about themselves in all the wrong ways from a PR point of view. A riot hardly seems an appropriate point to dabble in irrelevant ambush marketing.

The BNP last night was shorehorning the news to tout for donations on Twitter, while I hear that a JD Sports executive interviewed on the BBC said his stores were being ransacked due to the “quality” of their products (this needs verification).

A time and place, people, a time and place.

UPDATE (2.20pm 9 August) @nickswift has pointed me towards a slightly irrelevant plug by Old El Paso on its Facebook page.

“In these trying times I think we could all benefit from a bit of comfort food, and there are few things more tasty and reassuring than baked enchiladas, full of spicy chicken and topped with lots of bubbling cheese”

Another UPDATE (2.30pm 9 August)

I see Sainsbury’s is doing its bit to help the clean up operation, by providing volunteers with free bottled water in Clapham (via @robhoran and @epurser):

Sainsbury's Clapham Riots Clean Up

UPDATE 2.50pm 9 August

@cbld has just tweeted: “easy jet just emailed advertising their dedicated team to return MPs to London for recall of Parliament. Never miss a trick…” (Hat tip to @robblackie_bob)

Have you seen any examples of brands ambush marketing the #londonriots or the clean up operation? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet me @larakiara .



Where Coke went wrong during the riots

Mark Choueke

For many of your customers, your organisations and your communications are an irrelevancy this week. Worse than that, you stand a good chance of being berated just for opening your mouths and trying to engage even your most loyal customers. If you’re at all unsure how significant the events of this past week are in […]


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