Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Collective Logo RED

"…Oprah and Bono shared headphones for the launch of Apple's Red Nano. As the latest brand to get on board with 'Product (RED)', Apple joins Motorola, Armani, Gap, American Express and Converse in the fight against Aids. For every Red iPod purchased, Apple will donate $10 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.…
"Product (RED) is the brain child of Bono and Bobby Shriver (Chairman of DATA - Debt, Aids, Trade, Africa). The (RED) manifesto spells out the project:

'As first world consumers, we have tremendous power. What we collectively choose to buy, or not to buy, can change the course of life and history on this planet...(RED) is not a charity. It is simply a business model.'…

"…Like their business model, the marketing strategy of Product (RED) is seamlessly executed. The firms behind the (RED) brand, Wolff Olins and Buzztone, have managed to roll social networking, shopping, philanthropy and celebrities all into a brilliant cross-media campaign. As the Chicago Tribune writes, 'The key to Product Red is that it's not just a cause, it's a brand. Combining style with an altruistic message gives immediate status to a product especially when it's endorsed by stars.'…
"…One reason Product (RED) has done so well virally, is the visibility they've generated from a massive international cross-marketing push.…
"…If nothing else, (RED) on Myspace shows just how receptive Gen-Yers are to cause marketing, and the potential of social media for non-profit organizations. (see our previous post: Social Media for Social Change) [emphasis added]

Welcome to the brave new world of marketing! Bono has just launched a totally new-fangled advertising campaign that actually creates a collective corporate logo -- RED!

Not only does this campaign overlay RED on top of the individual brand distinctives of each multinational corporation, but it also brands their social activism under one giant umbrella -- RED. And, as the story goes, these RED profits will collectively fund the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight Aids, described in yesterday's post.

But this RED logo takes the matter one step further. RED is the new logo for business guru Peter Drucker's vision of a perfect "Society." RED is the brand name for a global pilot project to build Drucker's 3-legged stool! An act of marketing genius!

Never before has a marketing campaign worked at this magnitude, bringing together the diverse elements of the 3 sectors of Drucker's "Society" -- Corporate for-profits, Non-profits (charities, churches) and State (government).

Before we get all slathered up in awe and spout off accolades for good-sounding causes, let's pause for a reality-check. This is a Christian blog, and elsewhere this blog has repeatedly warned about Drucker's 3-legged stool, particularly as it encroaches upon the very meaning of "church" and "Christian." And we have taken great pains to document the many ways to connect the dots between Drucker, Leadership Network (his evangelical coaching outfit) and purpose-driven Pastor Rick Warren's Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan (yet another brand name). There is, therefore, every reason to suspect that this RED logo will attract purpose-driven evangelicals.

Writing about the history of brand names and logos in her book NO LOGO (Picador, 2000), Naomi Klein explained:

"By the end of the 1940s, there was a burgeoning awareness that a brand wasn't just a mascot or a catchphrase or a picture printed on the label of a company's product; the company as a whole could have a brand identity or a 'corporate consciousness,'… The search for the true meaning of brands -- or the 'brand essence,' as it was often called -- gradually took the agencies away from individual products and their attributes and toward a psychological/anthropological examination of what brands mean to the culture and to people's lives." (p. 7) [emphasis added]

Writing about the late 1990s, Ms. Klein reported:

"…[T]he very act of branding was becoming a larger and larger focus.… For these companies, the ostensible product was mere filler for the real production: the brand. They integrated the idea of branding into the very fabric of their companies. Their corporate cultures were so tight and cloistered that to outsiders they appeared to be a cross between fraternity house, religious cult and sanitarium. Everything was an ad for the brand: bizarre lexicons for describing employees (partners, baristas, team players, crew members), company chants, superstar CEOs, fanatical attention to design consistency, a propensity for monument-building, and New Age mission statements." (p. 16) [emphasis added]

Before we quote the rest of this paragraph, pause for a moment and re-read this previous paragraph and see how closely this description of a corporate culture parallels the rise of the purpose-driven movement in the churches. Now consider the fact that the purpose-driven church/corporate culture is poised to go global, just precisely at the same time as the RED campaign (and in cahoots with it), under the special "evangelical" logo of the Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan. Read on…

"…[T]hese logos weren't losing their currency, they were in the midst of breaking every barrier in the marketing world -- becoming cultural accessories and lifestyle philosophers." (p. 16) [emphasis added]

So, buying RED -- as described in the opening quotes to this post -- becomes a "cultural accessory" and "lifestyle philosophy." And it very quickly will become part of the evangelical culture, too. Commenting on this point, in a poignant article posted today at, purpose-driven critic Paul Proctor observes that Baptist Press writer Don Beehler has called for believers to adopt a new lifestyle that moves one from "success to significance":

"Beehler eventually ends up leading us right into Hollywood's latest liberal celebrity fashion craze of preferred charitable endeavors by talking about African villages, AIDS, orphaned babies and the providing of food, clothing and education - eventually mentioning, only in passing and ever so briefly, the 'Gospel' (whatever that means to him) as if the afterlife was merely an afterthought, before going on to tell of 'another person who made this transition from "success to significance," Sandy Griffith of Houston, who 'rocks, feeds, soothes and, in prayer, asks God to bless… premature infants and those struggling to overcome other severe health problems' at Ben Taub General Hospital's high-risk nursery unit.

"So, what's wrong with Lloyd Reeb speaking to people around the country about redirecting their 'time, talent and treasure' into 'something fulfilling for Christ?' and Sandy Griffith rocking, feeding and praying for preemies? Absolutely nothing, unless you're using good intentions, acts of kindness and the irresistible pull of motherly heartstrings to replace the real Gospel of repentance and faith - something that is curiously unimportant in the article and, with the exception of one word, missing altogether."

The evangelical half-timers are prime targets for the RED campaign. The RED logo, which sits atop the legs of the 3-legged stool, is a perfect marketing tool to give a heightened aura to corporate responsibility, civic duty and charitable actions. Everyone will bask in a haze of RED.

But there is a catch to this hazy RED aura of do-goodism: it is a perfect cloak for dastardly deeds. Why? Because no leg of the stool effectively polices the other leg. Oh yes, they give lots of lip service to it! But in reality, the foxes are watching the chicken coop. Documenting this socio-political issue in 2000, NO LOGO author Naomi Klein skeptically took note of the rise of a

"strange conflation of several large human-rights groups and the corporate sector. In 1999, some of the most maligned multinationals on the planet -- Dow Chemical, Nestle, Rio Tinto, Unocal -- rushed into partnership with human rights groups and the United Nations Development Programme. Together they formed brand-new umbrella organizations with names like the Business Humanitarian Forum, Partners in Development and the Global Sustainable Development Facility, which promised to 'improve communications and cooperation between global corporations and humanitarian organizations.' Multinational and human-rights groups, they claimed, actually have the same goals; human rights are good for business -- they are the 'third bottom line.' (p. 433-434)

The prophetic voice of the Church becomes muffled, even silent, in the haze of this RED fervor. As Paul Proctor wrote so eloquently:

"Once again, grinning wolves are among us friends, using their warm and fuzzy truths to decoratively frame a cold and deadly lie; that the purpose of the Church is to love the world and make it a better place."

The Truth:

"Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!" (Isaiah 31:1)