Bono's Product (RED) initiative: Corporate social responsibility that solves the problems of 'distant others'

Stefano Ponte*, Lisa Ann Richey, Mike Baab

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Product (RED) initiative was launched by Bono at Davos in 2006. Product RED is 'a brand created to raise awareness and money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria by teaming up with iconic brands to produce RED-branded products'. With the engagement of American Express, Apple, Converse, Gap, Emporio Armani, Hallmark and Motorola, consumers can help HIV/AIDS patients in Africa. They can do so simply by shopping, as a percentage of profits from Product (RED) lines goes to support the Global Fund. In this article we examine how the corporations that are part of this initiative use RED to build up their brand profiles, sell products and/or portray themselves as both 'caring' and 'cool'. We also show that, more than simply being another example of cause-related marketing (like the pink ribbon campaign or the ubiquitous plastic armbands), RED engages corporations in profitable 'helping' while simultaneously pushing the agenda of corporate social responsibility (CSR) towards solving the problems of 'distant others'.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)301-317
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

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