“Brand Aid’ is the title of a book I co-authored with Stefano Ponte that examined global AIDS funding to understand the implications of selling cause-marketed ‘RED’ products to support African causes.
I bring real world problems into my research and engage my research into the problems we are experiencing in global society. My book ‘Brand Aid: Shopping Well to Save the World’ has been a conceptual springboard for rethinking ‘helping’ in a global world and has allowed me to share knowledge with society and with the private sector. I was invited to write in a forum on ‘Shopping for Good’ for The Boston Review, the preeminent publication for American debate on politics, culture, literature and art, for almost fifty years. Brand Aid was picked up extensively in the popular media in the US, UK and Denmark and I was invited to speak at various academic and popular fora. Brand Aid sold 1500 copies in 1st three months, was featured by the Univ. of Minnesota, a top-10 US academic publisher, received a Mellon-funded fellowship as part of the Quadrant Program and was the topic of panels organized at the International Studies Association Meeting in Montreal (March 2011), the American Association of Geographers in Seattle (April 2011), the European African Studies Association in Sweden (June 2011), and the European Association of Development Institutes in the UK (Sept 2011). Brand Aid was the spark for an International Political Sociology Forum. It has also been featured on a US public television program (Bat of Minerva) and on popular blog sites, such as AidWatch and TripleCrisis. The book was featured in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Weekendavisen, Choice Top Academic Books of 2011, and the Times Higher Education Reviews, among others.
Brand + Aid Celebrity + Cause = Brand Aid
“Product RED, co-founded by Bono, has combined charitable giving and conspicuous consumption on a scale and with a reach never before seen. Consumers can confront AIDS in Africa simply by buying a shirt. But, as Richey and Ponte argue in their meticulously researched polemic, the devil resides in the details." By simplifying the transaction (one dollar spent equals a certain number of pills), RED effectively dodges thornier issues, such as the need for lifelong treatment or the delivery of medicine to "resource-poor settings" that lack necessary refrigeration. Participating companies still profit, of course; though RED had contributed only about 1% of the .8 billion disbursed to parent charity The Global Fund by late 2008, its high visibility and "cool quotient" have helped keep it top-of-mind for consumers. It has also succeeded by redefining the way brands, charities, and consumers interact, the authors argue. Their focus on RED at the exclusion of almost all others is equally illuminating and reductive; examination of other efforts, trends, or the efficacy of delivering aid feel cursory. Readers and academics interested in the ways corporate philanthropy is evolving will find this useful, as will armchair sociologists, but the relentless focus feels at times akin to a Senate hearing. (Mar.)”