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Product Red, often written (PRODUCT)RED, is a brand created by Bono (U2’s frontman) and Bobby Shriver of Debt AIDS Trade in Africa (DATA). (RED) licenses itself to partner brands which in turn create products with a red element and/or the (RED) logo and sell them, with a portion of the proceeds going to The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The project launched on January 26, 2006, but most consumers were not fully aware of the campaign until Bono appeared on Oprah to announce the Apple (RED) Nano, on October 13, 2006. By that time, there was a handful of notable companies, each producing (RED) items for purchase.

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Anytime there is a fund raiser that markets a product, or products, the naysayers come out and argue that people should donate money to worthy causes on their own accord, and not because there is a hip cool product that is being marketed. Personally, I can see where they are coming from but I feel that we are currently part of the most successful philanthropic marketing movement. I am not only talking about (RED), but events such as the MS Bike Ride, Yoplait Pink Yogurt Cap, and the one that (I think) started it all, the Lance Armstrong LiveStrong yellow bracelets.

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Let’s face it – we are a society of consumers. We want to be a part of something bigger, but not too big. That’s the kicker. We want to be part of a select group that’s “in the know” but once it gets too widespread, we are against it. Take, for example, the aforementioned LiveStrong bracelets. When I found out about them, I started purchasing them in bulk for my coworkers. For at least a month, I didn’t see anyone in Santa Barbara wearing them, except for myself and my co-workers. Then a few months later, they were everywhere. Then the inevitable happened. Imitators. In the form of cheesy high school fund raisers. Yuck.

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I love the (RED) campaign. The products the companies created are worth purchasing even if they were not part of the campaign. It just so happens that I love red. Though green is my favorite color, I have so much in red. The fact that some of the products are delicately and distinctly accented with small bits of red (like the Gap leather belt), makes it that much cooler. You can pick products that scream red, or just whispers it. I don’t really care that Converse is giving only 15% of proceeds to the fund. Or that Gap is not giving all of their profits over. Apple’s giving $10 from (RED) Nano sales. That represents between 4-5% turnover. Suddenly the Converse number does not sound so bad. Edit: I just read that Gap is giving 50%! The point is, these companies do not really have to give anything. They have no real responsibility to be good citizens, though they should be. Would anyone buy these products if it wasn’t for the (RED) label attached to it? I am willing to bet, yes, though I do see the marketing that’s driving people to the stores. How do you measure the ratio of goods purchased because of (RED) and those that would have been bought anyway?

Over the weekend, I bought my second (RED) product, a Gap leather belt. I love minimal belts with cool details. This one has thick red thread on the end and around the area that secures the buckle. I don’t think the thread offers any support to the build of the belt, but it sure does look cool. The girl at the register bid me “Thank you for supporting (RED)!” I love it!

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When I got back to SB, I received my second (well first, since I ordered it on 10/26) (RED) product. I got a custom pair of Chuck Taylor Lo-Tops. They look almost identical to the ones in the Converse (RED) campaign, but mine has personalized text in the back and a red tongue (Ted’s idea). Look at the attention to detail on the entire package. You have a very nice thick box with printing all around. There are red elements everywhere! Two red eyelets on the box itself. The bag has shoelaces with red tips as the drawstring. There are two more red eyelets in the bag which serve dual roles as a design element but also a functional one (venting). The shoes were wrapped in tissue paper with an inspiring message. The bottom of the box (not shown) reminds you to recycle the box by having it hold another pair of (old?) Converse.

And in case you are curious –

Pronunciation: 'krE-(")dO, 'krA-
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural credos
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin, I believe

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