I am impressed with the initiative that is Product Red simply because of the impact this will certainly have on the AIDS issue it seeks to address. For those who are not familiar with the initiative, see HERE for the vision behind Product Red. Here are some initial observations I have…
As our family was out wandering the shopping mall this past weekend as your typical consumers in a consumer society, we happened into the GAP store to fetch some outfits for our baby son (we had a gift card). Intrigued at the publicity generated by Bono and America’s wonder woman Oprah, I inquired about Product Red merchandise. Now, I do not buy clothes from the GAP, my wife buys for our children from time to time, but other than that, the thought of purchasing clothes made by fingers the size of my two year old’s turns me off.
My initial thoughts about Product Red overall are positive. That corporations such as the GAP would participate in this is encouraging. Upon further reflection; however, I became saddened by what I saw. To my surprise what I found was a small table surrounded by many signs with a very scant selection of clothing labeled Product Red. Now, to be fair, they may be sold out; however, a company such as the GAP would naturally take into consideration the market trends/demands and stock accordingly for such a high profile campaign. It is unfortunate that we live in a world where corporations that value shareholder value as the ultimate end will only give for such a cause to further that end. The line-ups were 15 persons long on two tills as I waited and there was little product red in the hands of frenzied consumers who most surely have forgiven any "sweat-shop" grudge against the GAP as a result of their participation in Product Red. The clerk indicated to me that sales were up when I asked about the traffic as a result of the campaign. The good o’l bait and switch, perhaps?
The corporate message here is that the core value propagated is not love for the sick, the dying and the broken, (as is the mandate of the Kingdom of God), but rather materialistic consumption and profitable gain. I think someone like Bono is genuinely motivated by Kingdom compassion and I believe he sees that in order to get the most affluent nation in the world to give, one needs to speak their language, play by their rules…if they won’t give out of compassion or mercy, maybe they will contribute to a good cause alongside the purchase of a new shirt.
An alternative to consider is project (Red)emtion, put together by the folks over at Waving or Drowning. It is a simple program that invites people to give 10$ out of mercy without tying it to a convenient purchase. Please follow the links to learn more.
All things considered, Product Red seems to be a worthy campaign and will reap some rewards such as saved lives and medicine for the sick, that will ultimately reap rewards in increased shareholder value for the corporations that participate. We do; after all, need to begin somewhere.
Donate to Project (Red)emption