There's been a lot of media attention given to Bono's initiative 'Brand Red' recently. The Independent is edited by him today (nice cover by Damien Hirst). And yesterday saw the launch of a Motorola phone which, when bought, gives £10 to development charities, and, when used, gives 5% of call charges too.
I have to say I'm sceptical. I like Bono. I think his heart is right in the right place. But I wonder if those eyes have seen through expensive shades for too long, if he's just spent too much time among the glitterati, and whether this Red idea is simply the commodification of poverty.
As you know, I'm a fan of the concept of 'gift', and this idea seems to me to be anti-gift. We buy the phone because we are buying into a brand. Not because we really care. If the only way we can get people to help those in dire need is to have to offer them something cool in return for their pennies, then I think there's something very wrong.
The Independent today carries an interview by Stellar McCartney with Giorgio Armani. In it he states:
"The best way to make a contribution in fashion is to promote the idea that a fundamental interest in preserving the environment is itself fashionable."
I disagree. If environmentalism, or aid, is simply a fashion statement, it will go out of fashion like bell bottoms and floral shirts. And this is the problem. Brand Red is a brand. And the companies involved are involved to make money, not to give it away. The want to align themselves to something that is 'cool'. If Armani was serious, he'd fundamentally change his business practice. He'd rather window dress.
I'm not sure starving children or aids orphans want to be seen as cool. They don't want people buying more clothes and mobiles so a cut of the profits can go to them. They want you to not buy the damn thing, be happy with what you have and give them the lot.
"If a man has two shirts, he should buy another one, Brand Red, and give the profits to the poor." No. Give the poor the other damn shirt.