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New iPod nano Sees (RED)

Apple will donate part of the proceeds from sales of a new, red-hued iPod nano model to the global fight against AIDS. The $200 iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED offers 4 GB of storage, just like the other colored iPod nanos the company announced last month (see “Apple Updates iPods, Introduces Movies, Previews iTV,” 18-Sep-06). Apple will donate $10 from each sale to the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.

The iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition joins red Motorola cell phones, red Armani wristwatches, and red American Express charge cards among special products aimed at raising AIDS awareness along with funds that will help buy and distribute anti-retroviral medicine. The (RED) movement was created by U2 singer Bono and political activist Bobby Shriver to engage businesses in the fight against AIDS.

The (RED) manifesto states, “We believe that when consumers are offered this choice, and the products meet their needs, they will choose (RED).” Apple says they’ll also offer a special edition (RED) $25 iTunes gift card beginning next month. The new iPod nano model is available worldwide immediately.

Staff Roundtable — Is this activism or is it marketing? The TidBITS staff weighs in on the iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition:

[Adam Engst] Perhaps I’ve never noticed anything quite like this before, but I’m quite intrigued by the implications of what appears to be a tightly integrated marketing campaign that simultaneously enables companies to sell multi-branded products and raises money for a worthy cause. There have been plenty of time-limited fund raisers in which companies donate some of their profits to a particular cause (even we did that in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, donating 10% of the proceeds from Take Control ebook sales in September 2005 to the relief effort), but this is different. By combining the brand power of a product like the iPod with a new brand – (RED) – both Apple and the (RED) project boost each other, Apple gaining the prestige of helping to fight a global crisis and (RED) becoming associated with an ultimately (at least for the moment) hip product. Call it capitalactivism or activicapitalism, but it would seem to be a new breed of convergence.

All that said, the capitalization and punctuation of (RED) is driving me crazy.

[Mark H. Anbinder] In this post-silicone-wristband world, activism and awareness are all about brand recognition. I love the idea that consumers who want to support a cause have the opportunity to purchase recognizable products from iconic brands, demonstrating their own support while at the same time directing corporate philanthropy. The consumer wins, companies like Apple and Motorola win, and important charities win.

[Jeff Carlson] Of course, you need major brands and major influence (in this case, Apple and Bono) to accomplish this type of deal at such a large level. What next? Just think of the publicity value if Microsoft were to donate $10 toward AIDS relief (or some other charity) for each copy of Office sold. The company can certainly afford it, and can always use the positive publicity. But will this approach scale down? Would (RED) be interested in working a conglomeration of Macintosh shareware companies? As can happen with big charity endeavors like this, the (RED) program will hopefully also serve as an example and encourage others to support other causes in similar ways.

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