The selling of ‘Boston Strong’

When companies get involved in causes, it raises occasional eyebrows.

This debuted today.


Yankee Candle, based in western Massachusetts, promises to donate proceeds from the sale of the candle — which it describes as a heartwarming blend of cinnamon, baking spices, and a hint of freshly poured tea — to the One Fund Boston.

That should prevent any pushback that the company might receive that it’s commercializing a tragedy.

Two people have already filed to trademark the phrase “Boston Strong.” One is a T-shirt maker who promises to donate 20-percent of profits to the fund.

Samuel Adams — the beer company — has filed for a trademark for “Boston Strong” 26.2 Brew in the beer category. It, too, is promising to donate 100 percent of the profits this year and next.

And OnHand is marketing “Boston Strong” flash drive wristbands. The $19.95 will go to the charity. The company was founded by Andrew Kitzenberg, the Edina native whose Twitter photos out his apartment window captured the final gun battle between police and bombing suspects.

There are also Boston Strong car magnets Boston Strong shoe laces, Boston Strong wristbands, and a Boston Strong candle in which only a portion of the profits go anywhere but into the pocket of the seller.

But maybe branding is more of a reflection of the people who buy the product. If you were inclined to donate to the fund to help the victims of the marathon bombing, why not just do it without expecting something in return?

  • Chuck

    Bob, your last question, why not just donate, is a good one. My wife and I have started moving in that direction recently. Even though we still buy the Boy Scout wreaths, we have begun to skip the “getting something” part of it for some other causes.

    For example, a few years ago, the son of some friends came with one of those sheets of coupons, trying to raise money for band trip. We never use those coupons and we didn’t want them, but we did want to support our friend’s son. So we just wrote out a check to the son and told him to forget the coupons. That way, we got to support him, and he got to keep the entire amount, rather than the 20 percent or whatever that the fund-raising industry would have given him.

    It’s not a surprise that everyone and their cat is copyrighting “Boston Strong,” but it sure doesn’t seem right. It almost makes a person want to boycott those products.

  • Arch Stanton

    After a tragedy or disaster it’s only a matter of time before the opportunists, vultures and carpetbaggers rear their ugly heads. I remember when ice cream cart vendors appeared not long after the 35W bridge collapse to take advantage of the crowds of spectators on the Stone Arch Bridge.

  • Jeff

    But maybe branding is more of a reflection of the people who buy the product. If you were inclined to donate to the fund to help the victims of the marathon bombing, why not just do it without expecting something in return?

    I sometimes buy Finnegans beer because they give 100% of their profits to local hunger alleviation companies. I have a cell phone through CREDO mobile because they are a company committed to progressive social change. I buy these products and services, not because I want to get something in return after helping a cause but because I want to help a cause in addition to getting something. If I’m going to pay for a cell phone, why not support a company that has social change as part of their mission statement. If I’m going to buy beer, why not have part of that money go to feed the hungry instead of the Busch billionaires? Product branding can be a way for a product to publicly show what causes they support which then allows me to indirectly support the causes that I support instead of the causes I don’t support. (For the record, I also give money to local food shelves without expecting them to give me anything in return.)

    (I know this is a dead topic, Bob, but I was listening to your old 4:20 podcasts last night where you discussed this with Mary and thought I’d share my thoughts on the matter.)

  • Erica

    Heard this the other day, but just getting around to catching up on your blog, which is generally how it works for me; I’m always a few days behind (at least :D)

    On first thought, this DOES feel a little wrong to me, as well. It feels like these companies are exploiting the tragedy.

    I do agree with Jeff though. Sometimes, I base my choice of a purchase on the fact that if I purchase brand A over brand B, some of my money will go to help charity XYZ. If I was going to purchase the item anyway, it is a bonus that I can also be a part of supporting something that I believe in, as well. So, I guess that MAY be what is happening with the Yankee Candle issue. If people are going to purchase Yankee Candles anyway, then the fact that the proceeds from the sale of this candle are going to support the victims of the bombing is just an added bonus. I don’t buy Yankee Candles, which may be why it feels a little like exploitation to me.

    Chuck – I’m with you. I’m all for cutting out the middle man when it comes to fundraising for my local school or for a friend’s child raising money to help themselves go on a trip, etc.