Marketers Celebrate 10 Years Of 'Go Red'

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As millions of women slip into something red this Friday, brand marketers are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the program, as the public-health message about women’s heart disease moves to the next level.

“We are at a shift from generating widespread awareness to driving behavior change,” Craig Bida, EVP of Cone Communications, which has worked on the program with the American Heart Association since its inception, tells Marketing Daily. “More than 25 million women have united around the cause, and more than $300 million has been raised. And increasingly, more people are aware that heart disease kills more women than all kinds of cancer, combined. The goal now has to be to continue that, but to get women to make lifestyle changes that will protect themselves and their families.”

Macy’s, one of the program’s two national sponsors, has been in on Go Red from the beginning. To celebrate this landmark year, the retailer says it’s celebrating with store events, a social media campaign and its annual Wear Red Sale. This year’s limited-edition red dresses are from Ellen Tracy, Kensie and Marilyn Monroe, with sales supporting the cause, priced from $60 to $120. Macy’s, which says it has raised $40 million dollars to fight against heart disease in its decade-long involvement, also plans to light up its Herald Square flagship in red for the occasion.

Any shopper wearing red, or who buys a $2 red dress pin at Macy’s, gets discounts throughout the store. And for any shopper who participates in its social media program, Macy’s is donating $2 for each tweet and post, up to $250,000.

Merck is also a national sponsor, and has donated more than $12 million since its involvement in 2007. National supporters include Campbell Soup, Rite Aid, JTV, Merry Maids, Mimi’s Café, Party City, Pogo, and PepsiCo’s Quaker.

The AHA created National Wear Red Day, the first Friday of February, 10 years  ago, to battle the perception among women that heart disease (the leading killer of women, taking some 500,000 lives per year) is as an “older man's disease.” Then in 2004, it expanded that to Go Red For Women, a social initiative, and since then, says there are 21% fewer women dying from heart disease, and 23% more women aware that it's their No. 1 health threat.

Bida says Go Red fundraisers may have more appeal this year. For one thing, Americans are aging, and women’s heart health risks increase after menopause. And for another, such leading cancer causes as Livestrong and the Susan G. Komen Foundation have been tarred by nasty publicity. “Consumers like brands they trust and believe in,” he says, “so it is possible we will see a shift in dollars as a result.”

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