Compassion, Inc: How Corporate America Blurs the Line between What We Buy, Who We Are, and Those We Help

Compassion, Inc: How Corporate America Blurs the Line between What We Buy, Who We Are, and Those We Help

Compassion, Inc: How Corporate America Blurs the Line between What We Buy, Who We Are, and Those We Help

Compassion, Inc: How Corporate America Blurs the Line between What We Buy, Who We Are, and Those We Help

Synopsis

Pink ribbons, red dresses, and greenwashing--American corporations are scrambling to tug at consumer heartstrings through cause-related marketing, corporate social responsibility, and ethical branding, tactics that can increase sales by as much as 74%. Harmless? Marketing insider Mara Einstein demonstrates in this penetrating analysis why the answer is a resounding "No!" In Compassion, Inc. she outlines how cause-related marketing desensitizes the public by putting a pleasant face on complex problems. She takes us through the unseen ways in which large sums of consumer dollars go into corporate coffers rather than helping the less fortunate. She also discusses companies that truly do make the world a better place, and those that just pretend to.

Excerpt

The inspiration for this book occurred on October 13, 2006. I was watching The Oprah Winfrey Show, and on that day Oprah and U2’s lead singer, Bono, were launching a new marketing campaign called (RED). What’s that? You know what it is—it’s the Gap INSPI(RED) T-shirt; it’s the red iPod nano, Apple’s mini digital media player; it’s the American Express Red credit card. “Oh, right, right,” is the typical response. (I know this conversation well, because I’ve had it hundreds of times over the past several years.)

If you really don’t know (RED), the way it works is easy: buy an upscale consumer item (like an iPod or a cell phone or a cup of Starbucks) and an often unspecified amount of money will go to the Global Fund to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa. You don’t pay more than you would for a non-(RED) product—a (RED) iPod nano is the same price as a green or blue one—so why not buy it and have the money go to charity, especially when Oprah and Bono and a slew of other celebrities think it’s a great idea?

When I first saw this campaign, I thought it was a great idea too. My twenty-plus years of experience in the marketing industry taught me (and physics will suggest as well) that it’s easiest to move a body in the direction it’s already heading. People are already shopping, so why not turn this self-centered act into an act for good? It was genius!

But after a chance to reflect, I felt a sense of unease about Product (RED). Could shopping really be the best way to “change the world”?

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