Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shopping to Save the World, One T-shirt at a Time

Marketing is defined as, the planning, pricing and distribution of ideas to promote market demand and adapt to consumers. Cause marketing is defined as, a type of marketing involving a partnership between a for-profit company and a non-profit organization. The best way to market a product is to ensure that the item is both ethical and answers peoples needs. When a company or retail store comes out with an ethical product line should we, the consumers, be suspicious? Would it be right to support the line and what it stands for?

When the Gap introduced its Product (RED) line in January 2006 Americans went insane. The reason why the Product (RED) campaign was an immediate success is because of a major celebrity endorsement from humanitarian Bono. He was not only the front man for the alternative rock group U2, but also the front man for this project. Secondly, why it gathered a lot of hype is because in exchange for buying a Product (RED) item, a percentage of the sales will go towards the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. There is absolutely nothing wrong with showing support for a cause. I show interest in many charities. However, consumers should know that not all “charities” are legit.

An additional reason why the campaign became a success is from a little help of the Queen of daytime, Oprah Winfrey. When Bono and Oprah joined forces after the launch of Product (RED) people everywhere began grabbing items that had the (RED) symbol on it, myself included. Celebrities have a huge impact on our buying decisions. It becomes no different when a charity or certain cause is involved. Consumers want to feel like they are doing something great, doing something that they know will be helping a person in need. When this campaign took off Americans believed it was essential to buy a t-shirt or buy a beaded bracelet that was made of African cotton, with the idea that shopping would save the world. They felt the need to do so because of the constant message Bono and Oprah were sending out. Oprah followed Bono on his many humanitarian trips, consequently influencing the consumer.

Consumers should be a little suspicious of this campaign because it has collaborated with the Gap, which in the past few years has been under a microscope. Of course there are other retailers that have partnered with (RED), such as, Apple, Microsoft and Converse but the Gap is the one company that has received a lot of criticism. This is because it was handed many lawsuits from workers in Spain and India who claimed to be mistreated and taken advantage of. When consumers buy an item from the Gap they do not know if it was made by sweat shop workers or in an ethical way. They are not aware of what goes on behind the merchandise. The Gap made a smart move when they decided to partner with the Product (RED) campaign. It has boosted their status, and gained some profit along the way.

A different reason why the Product (RED) could be seen as suspicious is because it has enlisted a number of celebrities to model their attire, celebrities such as, Christy Turlington, Dakota Fanning, and Chris Rock. Society knows that sometimes when a celebrity is involved it is to raise their status, not the cause. However there are some celebrities that do good, such as, Bono, Angelina and Brad, Claudia Schiffer, Don Cheadle, Oprah Winfrey, just to name a few. When Bono made his appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show I immediately thought, gosh, not another celebrity endorsement. The interview shows the pair shopping at the different retailers and “saving the world”. I thought to myself, the companies must be profiting from this in a huge way, all the proceeds could not have gone to Africa. What influenced my decision to buy an Inspi(RED) t-shirt was the fact that I knew Bono was a good humanitarian, I was aware of the effort he put towards helping others. Therefore I trusted his views on this campaign. However I did not consider the option of proceeds going towards the companies.

Entirely, Product (RED) is really a great campaign. It helps women and children in need of AIDS treatment and the civilians of Africa. With all retailer partners combined, Product (RED) has raised more than $63 million. It is definitely a success, and continues to perform well. But how do we know that all the proceeds will go directly toward the Global Fund? This is why consumers should be suspicious and not jump into charities, because the money could be going towards the companies for their own personal gain and consumers would think they are helping the Global Fund greatly. It is a good feeling when you help someone in need; let us hope it is for certain.

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