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The Seven Virtues of Bono – Part 1

May 4, 2010

Photo credit: Vector Portal via Creative Commons license through Flickr.

You can change the world with something as little as an iPod.

Or at least that’s what we learned through one of the most famous shopping trips of all time: the day when Oprah and Bono launched Project Red by going shopping on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

It was the start of one of the most successful cause-marketing campaigns of all time. Through recent research I conducted for my company for a client who shall remain nameless (for now, muhahahah!), it is clear that Red is a “before and after” moment in cause-marketing.

It has been a long-time practice for an industry to ban together to raise funds and awareness for a cause, but never has such a visible and fashionable cross-industry campaign ever taken place.

And the result is profound: $140 million to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria.

You can’t argue with that number. Bono has proven to be one of the most effective cause-marketing spokesperson of all-time. Why? It’s because of his seven virtues that make him the perfect pitchman for this cause:

  1. Visibility – it’s hard to be any more visible than the front man of a Rock N Roll Hall of Fame band.  With the staying power of U2, Bono has transformed his celebrity into a bully pulpit to advocate for social causes. Lesson for cause-marketers: find a stage to build your message on and make sure your cause will get the attention it deserves.
  2. Credibility – Equally if not more important than visibility is how credible Bono is. This is due to his long history of political action. The band’s third single (ever), Sunday Bloody Sunday, set the tone for the band’s emphasis on political action. In 1984, U2 participated in fundraising efforts for hunger relief in Ethiopia – including a six-week volunteer stint with his wife in an orphanage. Lesson for cause-marketers: Credibility doesn’t come overnight but you can’t do without it. It takes years to create it and much, much less time to destroy it. So make sure what you say – and what you do – match your purported values. Special note: credibility can’t be bought.
  3. Advocate – Bono is not just a spokesperson, he’s an advocate. Unlike credibility, spokespeople can be bought. Last I heard it only takes a couple hundred grand to buy a major celebrity endorsement for your cause. Bono, on the other hand, has proven to have a personal interest in AIDS in Africa. I have not been able to find any evidence that Bono is a paid endorser for the causes he supports. But it should be noted that before he went shopping with Oprah, he spent time with the President of the United States; educating him on the cause.  It’s hard to be a bigger advocate than that.  Lesson for cause-marketers: before you spend hundreds of thousands – or likely millions in the case of Macy’s Feeding America push – you should know if you’re buying an advocate or an endorser.

Part 2 of this article.

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