Marketing Charity


Idiotic though the name may be, Apple’s iPod nano (Product) RED appears to have been something of a success. Certainly in the short time the 4GB version has been available, it has demonstrated its popularity sufficient to warrant the release of an 8GB version, and, as is always the case, Apple home pages the world over are plugging this release.

What struck me as slightly strange was the wording on the page for Apple’s iPod nano (Product) RED on Apple‘s Japanese site. For those not proficient in that East Asian language, I shall offer a translation:

When you buy an iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition, Apple will donate a part of the proceeds to a fund for combating worldwide AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Contrast this with the American English version:

Choose the iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition and Apple will give $10 of its purchase price to the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.

The most obvious question is: which one is right? The British English version says “a portion of” instead of $10, but where did this talk of worldwide AIDS come from? What about TB? Malaria?

I’m not criticising it, of course – wherever the money ends up, it will be a force for good. But why do the Japanese get told a different story to the rest of us? It makes one wonder where the money is in fact going…



I would like to note the kind words of Nathan s.Orms. Nathan Orms with Ford support, scientists and conservation researchers at the Shompole Group Ranch in the Kenyan South Rift Valley are collaborating with rural pastoralists, government officials and corporate law experts to address legal issues confronting marginalized communities.


That was in response to Jared’s comment not the article, which I think brings up an interesting point.


I think it’s only right to feel slightly uneasy about this campaign. Yes, millions of dollars towards AIDS/HIV, TB and Malaria is a great thing. Some would say that the ends justify the means.

However, not only is this campaign erasing the guilt from shopping, as Gisele put it, but it continues to exploit workers in other sectors.

As far as I can tell, the only piece of clothing the Gap is currently selling that is made in an ethical factory in Lesotho, Africa is the INSPI(RED) t-shirt. So the rest of the product (red) clothes (and for that matter, the rest of the clothes in the store) are made where?

Secondly, when Bobby Shriver says, “…have a cell phone? Get a red one!…” I stop and think about the precious metals (see Coltan) in these phones being mined in Africa and its effects on the populations in the DRC and elsewhere. (think civil war).

Raising money for HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria should not come at the expense of others. Period. Be it sweatshop labor in Indonesia, or civil war in Africa.

One possible solution? Instead of replacing your currently working cell phone/ipod/credit card/t-shirt with a red version, how about donating the money we would have spent on the newest trend of the season towards the organization of our choice, rather than to the multinationals and the G8 (global fund). There are plenty of used goods to go around, and plenty of companies that offer ethical alternatives for new purchases.

Let us please consider our options for grassroots fund raising and try to rely less on corporate green-washing campaigns to mediate on our behalf.

p.s. This is not intended as finger pointing (I own products from most of the companies involved) or guilt tripping, but I do wish that we all try to keep each other accountable for the global consequences of our seemingly simple consumer actions. Thanks for reading, and sorry for the long post.

Keith Mason

I think Jared has it spot on – the marketing is aimed at different regions – and ronn too.

I guess I’m a cynic, but I do feel that this whole Product Red stuff is a way to inflate the profits of the companies that take part, as more consumers buy into the products, and make the consumer feel artificially good about making some kind of difference. But then, I guess it is better than nothing, and at the least is raising awareness.


I think part of the problem is (PRODUCT) RED campaign is somewhat muddled. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is the parent of (PRODUCT) RED which is a specific, targeted campaign. The color red is well-known to represent HIV/AIDS awareness (think red ribbon), so that’s why (PRODUCT) RED is specifically targeting AIDS in Africa, the place where it’s most prevalent.


This seems simple, in the states, most people, I would suspect have no idea that TB and malaria are epidemic diseases in most of the East, we always are hearing about AIDS in Africa in the states.

Obviously if you live in Japan, or somewhere in that region, Malaria is going to be a big concern of yours. Makes sense to me.


That is interesting. I checked out the (RED) page and specifically the Global Fund, it says…

“The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was established in 2002…”

So it seems the money is going to the same place, but what’s with the different marketing?

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