Remember the Red campaign put on by GAP a few years ago? The campaign consisted of various Red products, but most memorably the “Inspi(red)” “Desi(red)” “Admi(red)” t-shirts that became so popular. The campaign was founded by U2′s Bono and Bonny Shriver in an effort to raise money for the Global Fund and ended up donating quite a lot of money to AIDS programs in Africa.
But do you ever wonder whether consuming is really the best to make positive change?
Ok, first, let me acknowledge that it consuming is often much more effective at getting people involved in far away crises than anything else. For some reason, we humans often find purchasing a product much easier than simply donating money. You get a tangible reward in return, on top of the warm fuzzy feeling. And I think that is important to remember, because this strategy clearly works in attracting people, money and attention where it otherwise would have been ignored.
However, I would love to see us seek out another strategy, hopefully one that is equally effective. Encouraging consumerism and the purchasing of useless products whose production and transportation are largely contributing to global warming doesn’t seem like a great way to save the world to me. Not to mention, have you ever considered who made that shirt you are buying? The likelihood that it was someone in a less developed country, under inhumane working conditions is pretty high. As this CBS article points out, “ I’m not discouraging anyone who was already in the market for a $150 Gap denim jacket or Apple iPod from buying Red. If you really need one, you might as well kick back a few bucks so that someone in Africa can live.” But suggesting that by purchasing that product, you are making a significant change erases the fact that you may also be contributing directly to the problem.
The Red campaign is certainly not the only one of its kind, though it is by far the largest, and perhaps one of the most well known. We feminists also love to criticize the Pink Ribbon campaign, which raises money for breast cancer research. The site Think Before You Pink offers some valuable questions to pose before purchasing a product claiming to support a charitable cause.
How much money is going towards the cause the product claims to donate to? Can you tell? Do you feel that it is enough? Exactly what organizations/programs are being supported? What is the company doing to assure that the production of this product is not contributing the very problem it is trying to fix (example: poverty and lack of access to medical care in AIDS-stricken African countries, production and use of breast cancer-causing chemicals).
The site Buy (Less) Crap also works to challenge “cause marketing” and its efficiency. They created the funny header photos in this post in direct response to the Red Campaign.
I thought I would end with two questions that the Red Campaign used in their ads:
“Can a tank top change the world?”
“Has there ever been a better reason to shop?”