Wearing a poppy is quite a unique thing. There aren't many ways that the British are able to symbolise a positive relationship to nation without descending to nationalism, to recognise the honour of the military without veering into militarism. It also has a beautiful ambiguity. It may represent something very patriotic and proud, or a form of pacifism. It needn't mourn the dead of any particular war or even any particular nation. It may even represent mourning for the horrors of the twentieth century more generally. It's not irrelevant that most of those who have died in war over the last 100 years did not go into the military as a career, but were dragged into hellish territorial disputes. Some people might feel particularly moved by those conscripts, others won't. These various ambiguities allow people to congregate symbolically without being defined symbolically.
Unless you work in advertising that is. If you work in advertising, a poppy is something with untapped ROMI (return on marketing investment). Hell, a poppy isn't even targetting any particular emotion right now. That needs to change. Charging hell for leather into the marketplace of sympathy and guilt - jostling for position alongside Haiti, Banardos and the Find Madeleine McCann appeal - the marketers set forth a new vision of how to flog poppies:
By this account, poppies are now linked specifically to Tony Blair's wars, and recognise the acute physical and emotional pain of those alive today. They don't even mourn; they just sympathise. Not only that, but the wearer of the poppy is offered no space to interpret the symbol, or to use it as part of their own particular stance on war. They are emotionally black-mailed. From now on, the poppy will be empty of any meaning whatsoever (it is hardly meaningful to be against pain; animals are against pain), save for the meaning invested in its absence: the person without a poppy must be some sort of nihilist or sociopath.
This is a case study in how advertising corrodes culture. But in perfect Polanyian fashion, by corroding culture, it also corrodes its own marketing possibility. If the British Legion pursue this path for the forseeable future, they will lose the very thing that positions them in the marketplace - their unique status in the nation's consciousness - and become one more guilt-probing-device amongst thousands. The (social) marketing bods may note in a few years time that revenue spiked a little circa 2010-2011, then gradually fell away over the ensuing years, despite a guilt-chasing race for the bottom against competitors. "I'll see your sobbing abused child, and raise you one war orphan". What a miserable game.