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Published by:
INSEAD (2020)
Revision date:
13 pages
Data source:
Published sources
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Avoid the Competition for Decades: The Case of Comic Relief


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 GBP1 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 non-donors 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 Non-customers; (3) Barriers to Imitation; and (4) Disruptive versus non-disruptive 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 (link in ‘Extra information’ section).


Non-profit organizations; Fundraising; Social services; Blue Ocean Strategy; Charity; Red Nose Day; Comic Relief; Blue Ocean Shift; Non-disruptive creation; Non-customers; Disruptive creation; Barriers to imitation; Market creating strategy; Strategy; Competition


The events covered by this item took place in 1985-2017.

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Non-profit organization management; Fund-raising; Philanthropy

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