Bono's (Product) RED initiative is the sort of program that's easy to support. RED sells specially-branded products and donates a portion of the profits to the fight against AIDS. It's a feel-good promotion that Apple has been of since 2006, raising over US$75 million for the initiative. So why exactly is Bono frustrated with Apple right now?
The answer is simple, and sort of odd. Despite raising a huge amount of money in just eight years, Bono feels the company isn't doing enough to promote RED via branding or advertisement of its participation. During a presentation at the Cannes Lions on June 21, the outspoken singer lashed out at Apple with some rather profane language.
"Apple is so f*cking annoyingly quiet about the fact they've raised $75 million."
Apple could of course do more to promote RED directly, but it has hardly been subtle in its support. You don't subtly sell $75 million dollars worth of goods, make special products just for a project, and auction off one-of-a-kind versions of your hardware. Apple even has a website promoting its work with RED and the $75 million is has raised.
Bono's real issue is with a choice Steve Jobs made back when the partnership was formed. In the video below you can see Bono discuss the deal he and Jobs worked out for RED, including Steve's opposition to the use of parentheses in the logo. Several emails from Bono convinced Jobs to change his mind, but with a caveat; Apple would never put the logo in its retail stores. As Bono says, "...and to this day, you will never see the parentheses in an Apple Store."
Apple under Steve Jobs focused on building the best design over everything else, even promoting a charity, which it seems is another source of frustration for the singer. Bono takes issue with the fact that RED's branding on the products themselves isn't more prominent, usually located in a place where it won't be easily seen. In particular he raises issues with the (Product) RED iPad case, which has the RED branding on the inside of the case. Once your iPad is inside you'll never seen the logo again unless you take it out.
Where's the RED branding? Nobody can see that. This is modestry run amok. This is the Apple way. They're like a religious cult."
Which is sort of the point. Would Apple have sold so many RED iPad cases if it had a big (Product) RED logo on the front of the case? That's a reasonable question to ask considering the importance of design aesthetics to Apple's popularity. If you want this "cult's" money, sometimes that means you must accept its design choices.
Apple's design mastermind Jony Ive was on hand to provide a different perspective on Apple's relationship with RED, focusing on the company's expansion of their RED line.
We started in 2006 with one Red product, a Nano, and now we've got well over half a dozen. It's been really, really special for us."
This is a fascinating case of how dedicated Apple is to its design philosophy. It will help you raise money, they will even put your logo somewhere on the product, but when everything is said and done even branded products must look like they came from Apple. It's those design choices that sell so many iPads and iPad covers, and have contributed to the $75 million that RED has been able to use to make the world a better place. If only all overly modest cults could help that many people. In the mean time here are some commercials Apple made to promote it's RED products.