New campaign is Wonde(red)

Can a brand campaign change the way we do business?

Star power is good for more than just getting into exclusive night clubs. It can also gain access to corporate boardrooms. This point is embodied by (RED), a new branding partnership created by Bono and launched with the help of several celebrities. The program unites businesses under a common image to increase the amount of humanitarian aid given to Africa.

The idea behind (RED) is unconventional. It isn’t a private or nonprofit organization, but instead a brand that identifies products. Any company making (PRODUCT)RED products will donate up to half of the profit made on those products to The Global Fund, an organization that sponsors programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in Africa.

Corporate involvement was prompted by their underrepresentation in this effort: out of the $4.7 billion raised worldwide for The Global Fund, a mere $5 million came from corporate donors. (RED) hopes to remedy this by giving consumers a chance to help this cause through their purchases. Supporters hope that this will lead to a steady flow of aid from businesses.

The strategy shows promise. Currently, six premiere companies are aboard: Gap, Motorola, American Express, Converse, Emporio Armani and Apple. They hope their support for (RED) will earn them consumer goodwill, and in turn help them make more money. The strategy appears effective because, given the nature of competition, more companies will sign onto this partnership to receive similar praise, thus leading to more aid for Africa.

One can’t predict if (RED) will flourish, but it’s an engaging possibility. The company Newman’s Own has been working under a similar business model for twenty years and has donated more than $175 million to charity. Its success could encourage others to approach business from a similar angle.

This represents an experiment in taming the beast. Corporations are often thought of as monolithic creatures that show no remorse or shame in their devotion to the bottom line. The more accurate depiction is that, when given the proper incentives, these beasts can be enticed to jump through hoops for any number of causes. The power, as always, lies in our wallet.