Brand Blogging

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Product Red: the socially responsible licensed brand

Yesterday, I was viewing a story on The Independent's website, and I noticed they were using a different logo:

I had no idea why they changed the way the logo looked (and why there were complementary American Express ads on the front page), so I did the most logical thing: I asked about it on the Independent's Wikipedia talk page. Apparently, this was part of publicity campaign in the UK for Product Red,
a brand created to raise awareness and money for the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] by teaming up with the world’s most iconic brands to produce RED-branded products. A portion of profits from each RED product sold will go directly to the Global Fund to invest in African AIDS programmes, with a focus on women and children.
Bono (who was The Independent's guest editor yesterday) and Bobby Shriver, the founders of DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa), came up with the idea; essentially, DATA is an NGO that lobbies governments for contributions to the Global Fund, while Product RED is meant to get money for the Fund from the private sector.

The ability to use the RED logotype outline and create RED-branded products is licensed to different companies. That is, companies—currently American Express, Converse, Gap, Motorola, and Armani—pay for the right to co-brand their products and logos with RED. So, for example the Amex RED logo:

and now the actual card:

That's even cooler looking than the much-ballyhooed, invitation-only Amex Black card. Now, this is obviously not the same as, say, an Amex Delta Airlines Skymiles Card or other similar co-branded credit cards, but there are some analogs, such as the Chase-Visa-ASPCA card, which gives .7% of the amount spent by the card user to the ASPCA. However, this initiative is much larger in scope than anything else I can think of.

The "buy something and part of the proceeds go to charity" scheme is a well-worn marketing device based on the following insight from consumer behavior: people are accustomed to trading money for goods or services; people would like to give to charity, but they don't like the idea of just giving their money away while receving nothing (tangible) in return; however, if they pay for something that they wanted to buy and then the money they spent goes to charity, they get to receive something and give to charity.

By partnering with well-known companies, Product RED gains instant brand equity, which it can use to entice future partner companies. It also doesn't hurt that Bono is involved.

This is also a way for companies to enhance their image by aligning themselves with a good cause; corporate social responsibility (CSR), the idea that companies should be socially responsible in addition to making profits, has become such a big deal that there is even a set of standards created by Social Accountability International called the SA-8000, which gives guidelines for adhering to "international workplace norms" (such as no child/forced labor, no discrimination, realistic working hours, etc.). Among the signatories are Dole Foods and Toys 'Я' Us. But just remember that none of these companies are doing this out of the good of their heart.

Because CSR is just another form of PR.


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