(LESS) of (RED)?

product (RED)

Product Red (styled (PRODUCT)RED) is a for-profit brand which is licensed to some of the more iconic brands: Apple, Motorola, AMEX, GAP, etc., who are then entitled to use this brand on their products. In return, they donate a percentage of profits towards the AIDS cause in Africa.

I don’t harbor warm feelings to this campaign – a marketing gimmick that leverages on human compassion to dig more gold from the consumers. Look at the copy of what (Product) RED is about – if this isn’t marketing and branding fluff, I don’t know what else is:

“Each company that becomes (RED) places its logo in this embrace and is then elevated to the power of red. Thus the name — (PRODUCT)RED. You, the consumer, can take your purchase to the power of (RED) simply by upgrading your choice. Thus the proposition: (YOU)RED. Be embraced, take your own fine self to the power of (RED). What better way to become a good-looking samaritan?! [bold mine, ?! theirs]

Which is where (LESS) hits back:

Stemming from a reaction against the (RED) campaign, the (LESS) campaign invites donation to the same charities for AIDS as (RED), but without the conspicuous consumption of the branded goods. When I first saw the ads/pictures, I thought it was rather refreshing. I must say I’m a little less inspired when I went to their website though.

While they sharply challenged the (RED)’s ideology of copious consumption in the poster ads, they have inherited and duplicated (RED)’s style – be it in their web design, approach or their overtly-marketing tone, complete with slogans and a faux sense of grandeur. While reacting against the superficiality of (RED), they seem to be sorely lacking in sincerity of their own.

It does make me ponder if (LESS) is even operated by the same people in (RED) – like you’d learn in Marketing 101 – it never hurts to capture more segments of the target demographic.


3 comments so far

  1. Alex on

    I think the outrage and reaction is what’s meaning(less) here. You may even be right that it’s engineered, and if so, that’s clever.

    But really, back to the outrage. What the hell? The red campaign isn’t focused on people that will be giving to charities anyway, that’s not the point. The target is exactly as you state, copious consumption. The people buying red products are one of two types. 1) A type that doesn’t mind spending extra if they see part of it is going to a godo cause 2) A type that wants the status/recognition of having supported a good cause but doesn’t actually care about the cause.

    In both cases, this is a win/win for the charity. Neither of those types of people are likely to have donated to said charity in the first place.

    The fact that it’s for profit is a good choice. Why shouldn’t the companies embracing the marketing, and the marketing campaign itself be rewarded for tapping an otherwise non-existant market. Their financial success means more campaigns like this in the future, or an expansion of this one. That can only bring the charities more money in the end.

    I agree that if you’re concerned about the cause, then you should definitely donate directly to it. Again, though, that’s not the case with people who are buying up red items.

  2. Gems Sty on

    Hi Alex,

    I’m not against for-profit charities. And while it’s always good for the charity to be well-funded, just because there’s money going towards them doesn’t necessarily implies that it is right and good to do so.

    In the medieval times, some churches will sell “indulgence” – if you commit an immoral act or a crime, you can pay the church a some of money to “remove the sin/guilt”. The church can cash in by exploiting the man’s imperfect conduct and sense of guilt. Money earned goes towards a (maybe?!) good cause, but doesn’t mean it’s right. This is not the perfect analogy, but there are some parallels that I see here.

    (RED), in my view, vigorously exploits the empathy (in the first type of people) and vanity (in the second type of people). I guess my biggest bone with it is the strong sense of manipulation that I feel through the campaign – “Buy this over-priced, branded product! Erase away your guilt in such spending – it’s for a good cause!”. It seems more like a case of the Big Brands using charity for their profit, rather than profiting to aid the charities.

    Then again, many of traditional golf events, gala dinners and charity auction fundamentally rely on exploiting various human emotions to raise funds – pride, empathy, guilt, etc. – but at least most of these would usually have the charity more in focus.

  3. Gems Sty on

    Another nugget of information worth mentioning: the cost of the (RED) Campaign was tremendous compared to the donations it solicited: $100 million for the campaign, and $18million to charities.

    Here’s CNN take on (LESS):

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