Dec 03, 2009 at 04:52 PM
written by Joe Waters

For Holidays Starbucks, Critics See (RED) & Green

I love Starbucks. I love Product (RED). I love cause marketing.

If you have a problem with any of these you should probably leave now.

Through December 1st when customers spent $15 on any purchase Starbucks automatically made a $1 donation to The Global Fund on their behalf. Customers also got a copy of the exclusive All You Need Is Love Holiday CD for free.

But that’s not all.

On December 1st, Starbucks commemorated World AIDS Day by donating 5 cents from every beverage sold that day as well as $1 from every Starbucks (RED) product purchased in stores.

To date Starbucks has generated contributions equaling more than 5 million daily doses of antiretroviral medicine through the purchase of Starbucks/(RED) products.

But no good deed goes unpunished.

A recent Nonprofit Times article titled Product (RED)’s Impact is Shrouded in Vague Answers frowns on (RED) partners like Gap and Starbucks that don’t report sales related to (RED). But the Times also reports the points I often make on (RED). The cause marketing business model it’s created with companies like Starbucks is….

  • …the best way to raise money with businesses, especially retailers, because it engages the most powerful and lucrative force they have: its customers. In short, despite what most people think, the real money in corporate philanthropy is not in the company checkbook. It’s in the customer’s pocketbook.
  • …an incredibly successful way to build a philanthropic brand. Think about it. Critics complain that (RED) partners have spent tens of millions of dollar on marketing (RED)–like they wouldn’t have spent it on something besides philanthropy anyway. But what they don’t concede is that in just a few short years (RED)’s philanthropic brand has risen to a level that it’s taken others–St. Jude, Unicef, MDA, Komen–decades to achieve. And (RED) owes that to star-power and an impressive ability to harness the corporate marketing machine. A lot of nonprofits ask me what area they can work on to be more successful in cause marketing. Three things, I tell them: brand, brand, brand.

    It’s a lesson Product (RED) drilled on right from the beginning, and to-date has $135 million as proof that in the school of corporate philanthropy they are a top student.

    Joe Waters is currently the Director of Cause Marketing for Boston Medical Center, an avid blogger and a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. Joe can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter at @joewaters and at The thoughts and opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the publisher, SponsorPitch, LLC.