Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thoughts on (RED)

Bit of a rant/rambling here... please excuse the mess. I'm not sure I have a take on this (well maybe I do), I'm just working things out in my head and looking to incite you to comment.

My wife Tivo'd Oprah last week and I caught the Bono/(Red) show and since then, I've been struggling with a bunch of questions related to this campaign.

Ok, at a very high level, this all makes great sense. Yes, I'm probably going to go get myself some (Red) shirts at The Gap, and yes, I'd love a (Red) iPod. And yep, I'll feel oh so good about myself. I also understand that (Red) isn't a charity, but a "business model." I understand all these things.

But here's the thing.

I feel uncomfortable and a little shallow about it. Is that just me? I might not be able to explain it in words on a blog, but it just feels empty.

Here's a scenario - is this plausible, probably or am I nuts?

Jimmy Do Gooder goes and gets his cool Inspi(red) shirt and runs around feeling like he's saving people (which he's right about - that shirt is helping to buy life saving drugs - no dispute there!). Jimmy D adds this shirt to his yellow Livestrong bracelet, his Breast Cancer car magnet and his Team In Training license plate holder and suddenly... Jimmy's more like a Nascar driver than a philanthropist. And to boot, he's probably only contributed a grand total of $20 to various causes, but feels like he's donated millions.

YET... after watching Bono and Oprah shop, I really felt inspi(red). Seeing Bono and Oprah do their thing can get to you that way. But then the marketing guy in me came out to play and I thought... what company in their right mind doesn't want a piece of this? How could you not participate? (So where's all the support folks, it is "coming soon"?)

The other thing I'm wondering about is the choice of partners. Armani? Seems a bit high brow and doesn't quite reach the masses... where's Costco? How about Amex? You'd reach more people through local banks and credit unions. I'm thinking more about Swatch watch, Wal-Mart and Payless shoes.

Is there a contradiction here - is this about high end, exclusive items that the average joe can't afford? If so... what are they thinking?! The roster of partners themselves send a message and it feels a bit exclusive to me to be honest. But I could be very wrong.

Are we teaching our kids that we can just shop our way out of these massive problems? Is buying an iPod really the way to go here, or is it that hopeless that Americans (and the world) can't have a conversation about what's wrong in the world and resolve to fix things?

Finally... I've noticed a few things:
  • The Oprah site, just a few days after the show has relegated (Red) to a tiny banner at the bottom of the home page. What's featured right now is a woman who's obsessed with germs.
  • I still can't get some of these products in the U.S. (no Red Amex quite yet)
  • I first heard about (Red) what seems like ages ago - is it because they aren't a charity that this is taking so long to roll out? The first press release was back in January 2006.
We either live in a global village or we don't. We either care about each other or we don't. Is shopping enough? Don't we have a global responsibility to talk about this stuff, even if it feels hopeless and overwhelming?

I'm not saying I'm not going to participate in (Red) - after all - I shop, so why not buy (Red)... I just think there's more to this.

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