Compassionate Consumption: Branding Africa Through ProductRED

Kathleen M. Kuehn


This critical case study of Product RED interrogates the sociocultural and political economic implications of cause related marketing (CRM) which uses the sale of commodity goods to raise money for a social cause. Through the lens of commodity fetishism this research reveals how RED's brand-within-brand experience strategically positions Africa as a branded symbol and promotes individualism as a philanthropic value, mystifying the larger political economic issues of production and consumption embedded in commercially-driven philanthropy. This research argues that RED is consistent with the larger neo-liberal project that relies on an ethos of individualism and personal responsibility to address social reform which in the end renders a market-based approach to charity as paradoxical and problematic. Despite the campaign's philanthropic goals, this research rejects RED as a counter-hegemonic solution to pressing social and political  issues.

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