(Product) red | pt. 1 of 2

Bobby Shriver and Bono launch (PRODUCT)RED: Motorola phone.
photo | Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Issue 02 | Cooperation
Writer: Liz Werner

For decades the business world has been summed up by the simple phrase, “It’s a jungle out there.” One doesn’t need an MBA degree to understand the truth of this old adage. However, instead of seeing a cut-throat, bottomline motivation for the almighty dollar, we should all rub our eyes and adjust our vision for something new. (PRODUCT)RED combines innovation with a profound sense of humanity into a business brand that is not only making money, but is also committed to fight AIDS in Africa.

(PRODUCT)RED, more commonly referred to as (RED), is the creation of Bono, lead singer of U2, and Bobby Shriver, chairman of Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa (DATA). The two co-founded (RED) to engage businesses and consumers in the fight against AIDS in Africa. Companies who have become partners designate certain items as (RED) products. They then direct a portion of the profits from those products to the Global Fund, which invests the money into AIDS programs in Africa.

RED) launched in the United States in October 2006. Partnering companies have made a five-year commitment to participate, which ensures continual private sector support for the Global Fund. The contribution to the Global Fund from (RED) products is $25 million and counting. "[(PRODUCT)RED] is the future of publicprivate partnership as it leads to initiatives which are sustainable because all stakeholders benefit. [It is] effective because each partner does what they do best," says Dr. Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund from July 2002 until April 2007.

The soon to be famous red parentheses are on the wall in the (RED) office in Los Angeles.
photo | Jason Elias

Partnering with (RED) is an impressive list of companies, celebrities and media outlets; all of whom have something unique to offer the brand. From cell phones and iPods to sneakers and clothing, the range of (RED) products provides consumers with several ways to exercise their buying power. Prominent celebrities, including Don Cheadle, Christy Turlington and Steven Spielberg, have lent their name and face to promoting (RED).

On the popular Internet friend network, MySpace, (RED) has over 600,000 friends - the majority of which are individuals who have joined to support (RED) and meet others who do the same. "The cool thing about MySpace is they can all get in touch with each other," Shriver says. "You know 4,000 [of our friends] flew to a [U2 concert] in Honolulu and tailgated in the parking lot. No one ever said a word to them; they did it on their own. It was unbelievable."

President of (PRODUCT)RED Tamsin Smith. photo | Jason Elias

Not only is there a connection between the consumers who support (RED), but there is also one among the companies involved. "Some cool things have happened within the partnerships," Shriver explains. "In Motorola TV ads, the people . are wearing Gap shirts, and you know Gap didn't pay for that. Gap started to sell a bunch of Converse shoes, which they had never done before. The companies [are] not only embracing us, but embracing each other."

The notion of an embrace seems an unlikely sentiment to use in the same sentence as "business;" however, it seems to be central to the spirit of the (RED) brand - right down to the logo. "We want to grow and sustain the brand, [and] we want those parentheses around the word, 'red', which we call the embrace . to be famous," says Tamsin Smith, president of (PRODUCT)RED.

Shriver is trying to find more products that people use every day to brand as (RED) "like chewing gum, toothpaste, shampoo and lipstick." Along with increasing the amount of money given to the Global Fund, he hopes the addition of such products will encourage consumers to think about their purchases in more socially conscious terms. "If people start to think about their daily purchases, not their charitable giving, but their daily purchases . that's [who] (RED) people are."

(story continued tomorrow)

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