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Kudos to rocker Bono and Bobby Shriver, son of Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, for conceiving Product RED, "...a global initiative whose primary objective is to engage the private sector in the fight against AIDS in Africa by chanelling funds from the sale of (RED) products to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria"....


On October 13th, a year after being launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Product RED announced its partnerships with product companies in the U.S. and around the world. How it works: companies commit to rolling out RED products or services and guarantee that a percentage of the profits will go to HIV/AIDS programs in Africa supported by the Global Fund.
While this sounds like a straight-forward concept, it takes a massive effort on the part of many people to make something like this happen. Product and service companies are stepping up and making the commitment to do their part to support RED.
In the U.S., Converse is expanding its line of red sneakers and making them available for purchase online; Motorola is launching red mobile phones and even ensuring that a percentage of call and text message charges will be forwarded to the Global Fund with a special subscription plan; Apple is launching red iPod Nano; Gap is rolling out a line of Product RED apparel, and many more companies are following suit here and abroad.
From a marketing point of view, this effort has been masterfully brought to the world's attention. All major media channels have been used, including viral marketing, making this a never-before-seen international cross-marketing juggernaut.
Newspaper coverage, magazines, TV coverage, celebrity endorsements... all have been hit with a full-court press to gain maximum visibility for the cause. The firms responsible -- Wolff Olins and Buzztone -- have made RED a brand unto itself, remaining absolutely consistent and on-message. Not an easy feat given the fact this endeavor is global in scope. They've also used social networking at a whole new level–www.JOINRED.COM has already had almost 37,000 visitors and the RED Myspace page has had close to 269,000 visitors to date.
The RED brand was launched with both a business model and a marketing strategy. The RED Manifesto:
"As first-world consumers, we have tremendous power. What we collectively choose to buy, or not to buy, can change the course of life and history on this planet. . .RED is not a charity. It is simply a business model. You buy (RED) stuff, we get the money, buy the pills and distribute them. They take the pills, stay alive, and continue to take care of their families and contribute socially and economically in their communities. If they don't get the pills, they die. We don't want them to die. We want to give them their pills. And we can. And you can. It's easy. All you have to do is upgrade your choice."
Proceeds to the project have topped $10 million thus far, and expectations are to be able to raise $500,000 million per year–as more and more product manufacturers and service providers jump on the bandwagon around the globe. Organizers feel that these numbers are attainable if the purveyors of cars and luxury products get involved. And I'm betting they will.
This kind of initiative represents cross-marketing, including viral marketing, at its best. Using the full capabilities of social networking for a social cause has to be the ultimate.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (www.designforceinc.com), a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.