My email rang yesterday with a request from my former colleague Andy and I am going to do my best to answer. The subject is Product Red and my opinion about it. I have been observing and thinking about this campaign as it has unfolded and here is what I think.
I'm disappointed. I'm a little mad. But I think cause branding as a strategy will survive the excesses of Product Red. I believe that because if you step back from the edge of the cliff and view the campaign, Product Red is not cause branding. It is a product promotion campaign. Granted, it is a big product promotion campaign executed on a global scale. But cause branding it is not.
When the news broke this week that Product Red had spent $100 million on marketing and returned $18 million to the cause of fighting AIDS in Africa, it was like a slap in the face to all of us who believe in cause branding not just as a marketing tool, but as a real way to make change in the world. The Better Business Bureau says charitable efforts must return a minimum of 65 percent of all proceeds to the cause to be considered successful. Product Red has a ways to go to meet the BBB minimum.
Product Red is all the rage right now. We know because clients we are working with are constantly referencing it with envy and admiration. It's big and bold and it has certainly captured the attention of the world. But thus far too much money has been spent for too little return and the celebrities involved have outshone the cause itself. That is why I don't want this program confused with true cause branding efforts.
Perhaps Product Red is creating a new category for which we will need to come up with a new moniker. Maybe we call it marketing cause instead of cause marketing. That may seem like semantics, but the simple juxtaposition of the two words illustrates that there is a difference between selling products to benefit a cause and creating a program that educates, enlightens and raises money for solutions to a societal problem.
I'm sure there are people who will disagree with my opinion. I may have even offended a potential client out there somewhere. I'm comfortable with that. I know from the great organizations that we are now working with that there is a great understanding of the power of true cause branding.
What do all of you think of Product Red? Let's keep this conversation going. I have my opinion, but I believe this is an important discussion for us to have if we care about cause, public relations and branding.
So now Andy, all we have to do is figure out how you can possibly dislike the Beatles.