Marketers Get Their Red Out to Help AIDS Effort

Converse, Gap, Others Design Special Products for Bono's Global Project

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If last week's issue of The New Yorker looked a little scarlet to you, get used to it. A new brand initiative will have consumers seeing a lot more red in the coming months.

Product Red, launched in the U.K. by rock star Bono and the Kennedy clan's Bobby Shriver in March, is hitting the U.S. this month in a big way by partnering with major marketers to sell products that will benefit AIDS patients in Africa. So far, Giorgio Armani has designed a pair of sunglasses and Converse introduced a sneaker. Coming up: Motorola is rolling out a cherry-colored cellphone, and on Oct. 13 Gap will launch a line of Red tank tops and accessories, worn by celebrities such as Mary J. Blige and Steven Spielberg in the New Yorker spreads.

"Our goal is really to change the way consumers shop," said Julie Cordua, VP-marketing for the Red campaign. "It's designed to have longevity. It's not one T-shirt, then it goes away. These relationships with these brands are several years long. We hope that at one point in time you can choose to buy Red, no matter what type of product you're buying."

Red will officially launch later this month, Ms. Cordua said, so plans for more brands to become involved are already under way (and highly under wraps). The intent is to eventually roll out Red globally, Ms. Cordua added.

Because of the breadth of the product line, Red's logo, created by New York brand consultant Wolff-Olins, is simple-the word Red in a plain sans-serif font-yet versatile. "What we had to do was create an identity that would be universal to go from Armani to Gap to Motorola," said Karl Heiseilman, creative director. "I mean, you have the Gap mark in red for the first time. Corporate identity's always been about control, but they all used the mark for Red."

sacrificing for cause

For their part, marketers are willing to sacrifice brand identity for the sake of a cause. "We are truly honored to be part of something as critical as eradicating AIDS in Africa," said Cynthia Harriss, resident of Gap brand North America, in a statement.

To that end, individual brand campaigns will also do little to explain Red's concept to consumers (a la Gap's simplistic, buzz-generating New Yorker spread), instead letting the initiative speak for itself when it officially launches.

Whether it's in magazine ads, in clothing boutiques or on cellphones, Product Red will likely be difficult to ignore in the near future-which is precisely the intent, Ms. Cordua said.

"The idea behind the campaign is to not only build awareness for Red but to create sort of a movement among consumers where they feel like they're part of a community. This is about more than one person. It's about all people who identify with this initiative."
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