Monday, March 05, 2007

Bono's Red Blunder

As I've written here before, one of the best feelings you can have in this life is being right. And the only feeling that beats being right, is being right when everyone insists you're wrong. So it was with a whole lot of laughs and not too little vindication that I read this latest tidbit about U2's lead singer and top egoist, Bono's utter failure to move the masses with his Red campaign.

According to Ad Age magazine, over $100 million has been poured into the campaign and one year later, barely $18 million has been raised as a result. Not exactly a stellar performance, considering that the campaign was launched with as much hubris and arrogance as the star could muster.

Why was I giggling at the article? Not because I enjoy other people's failure. And certainly not because I don't endorse compassionate giving to those less fortunate. No, I was having a good laugh at the stupidity of the campaign, which I was only too happy to predict on the day of the campaign's official launch.

For those of you who insist on seeing the evidence, here's the video link:
"Closing Bell: "Bono's Red Brand...Just More Hype?"

If you're not into video, it wasn't exactly tough to call Bono's Red campaign dead on arrival. First, it was a classic example of the Lemming Factor, where the media and other sycophants latch on to anything and anyone that glimmers with the faintest of fame. The bandwagon could be chartered straight to hell, but they'd jump on it just as fast, in order to rub up against whatever - or whoever - they think is famous this week. It doesn't matter what they're famous for, mind you, it's all for bragging rights.

Usually, those bragging right turn out to be worthless, especially if the celebrity you're rubbing against is the next O.J. Simpson or Britney Spears. Even spotting them average mental health, too often, ill-conceived campaigns springing from egotistical minds like Bono's are the result of spending way too much time believing the hype their press agents spin out, instead of focusing on the issues at hand.

Somewhere along the line, Bono became convinced that because millions of gullible kids could be slick-marketed into buying his records, he can probably get them to believe he can really walk on water, raise the dead -- and launch a brand. And while I can't claim to know anything about walking on water, I can definitely tell you this guy was dead in the water from the word go.

First, Red was created as a marker on products, signifying that part of your purchase would go to a charity of Bono's choosing. Most people think the money would go to AIDS and Africa, but the fine print always stated that the beneficiaries were to be chosen by Bono. The idea was doomed to fail, because while Bono may be able to yell and wail through a song, he's not quite as good at figuring out business strategies. It plainly hadn't occurred to him that tagging products with a logo doesn't increase sales for the participating companies. In fact, it actually cannibalizes sales, since the people who buy Red products were going to buy those products in any case, Red or no Red. Apple took a hit on Red iPods, because kids were buying iPods. Nobody bought an iPod because some of the money would go to AIDS relief. The GAP didn't see any new customers, either. In fact, one could argue that Red was a business killer.

Second, the whole notion of linking charitable giving to conspicuous consumption is patently absurd, and reeks of pure naivete. Totally transparent and lacking in credibility. Bono aimed his unneeded purchases at his unsuspecting public's wallets instead of their hearts and minds. As a result, nobody cares about Red. Nor should they. From the beginning, it was a tragic kind of farce, more demonstrative of the greed and lack of true humanity by which this generation has been consumed.

Nevertheless, where Hollywood treads, reason fears to follow. Bono managed to sucker in tons of corporate dollars, most of whom are now ruing the day they ever signed on to this fiasco. The only Red they'll get to see is on their bottom lines.


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