Conscience Clea(red)

On the 25th November, Starbucks unveiled its new campaign for the US and Canada. Really nice in connection with Christmas, right? Not so nice in connection with World Aids Day, which is what it's actually about. Ouch! I wonder if the copywriter's gonna be a little (red) faced over this? A whiff of client writing, I reckon...

(red) is something of a success story right now, between catching the wave of philanthro-branding (alongside Fairtrade), and being very careful in its associations (phones, The Gap, the right sort of celebs). This campaign, unfortunate strapline aside, will almost certainly be a moderate success: the facebook event for this 1st December promotion currently has 531,000 attendees.

Looking closer, some of those have only joined to use the group as a forum for their grievances:

"...maybe I'd reconsider if they didn't support authoritarian regimes, if their coffee was fair trade certified, or if they didn't practice semi-legal union-busting techniques"

Quite, Stacy. Whatever Starbucks' practices may or may not be (and I'm certainly not qualified to know), lots of people still have an anti-capitalist attitude towards them - and against that, what this promotion amounts to is a 5 cents donation towards AIDS charities, for each cup of coffee.

Isn't that about... 3p? Thruppence on a £2 coffee? And beyond that, there's the nature of (red) to consider. From joinred.com:

"(RED) is not a charity. It's a business model designed to create awareness and a sustainable flow of money from the private sector into the Global Fund, to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. Consumers buy (PRODUCT) RED, and at no cost to them, money is sent directly to the Global Fund."

(red) isn't a charity. But neither is Starbucks! And the people that buy this won't, in a personal sense, be 'giving' much to charity. What they will be doing is expressing a notional support for the idea, like we all do with badges, or T-shirts - and incidentally, you can bet that the cups this coffee comes in are branded to bits.

So perhaps Starbucks are doing the right thing here? They're a business. They've partnered with a business. Both are experts on branding, image and aspiration. Your purchase will perform the function of showing you in a certain light, without too much of the markup associated with a significant charity donation. If people actually want to give any real money I guess they'll just go and do it.


thanks, http://forums.somethingawful.com people. I love you.

Append: Stacy writes back to say that 'anti-capitalist' is something of a slur and certainly, I can understand it might touch a nerve in America! Lets pretend I'm a better writer and that I actually put 'responsible-consumerist' instead :)

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