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Could iTunes Save Your Life?

By Michael Brown , VP, Media & Entertainment | @michael_k_brown
May 27, 2010

Could iTunes save your life?

If you or someone you love is one of the many people who benefit from charities that combat fatal diseases, I believe it could.

Apple has revolutionized the way we buy music, movies, audiobooks , and of course apps. By storing your credit card info and offering items al a carte, spending money on iTunes is so easy you hardly give a second thought. Imagine if that same system could be used to give small donations to any number of charities — the impact could be tremendous.

Why iTunes? Well, it really comes down to three things:

  1. Infrustructure
    iTunes has a fantastic commerce infrastructure. It seems it would take minimal effort to set up the system that would allow something like this.


  2. Membership
    In order to buy songs on iTunes, you have to establish a membership. Unfortunately, Apple is very secretive about their membership numbers. However, considering the iTunes Store was the source of more than a quarter of US music sales during 2009 (69% of digital) and Apple recently announced they had sold over 10 billion songs, I’d venture to say their membership base is well into the hundreds of millions. Regardless of the actual numbers, there is no doubt that the massive user base of iTunes makes even the largest charity organizations online membership numbers look insignificant.


  3. Gift cards
    iTunes gift cards are available in so many locations these days, that, for many (including myself), they are the go to gift when time is short and money is scarce. With the most commonly available card amount being $15 and the most common price point for an album being $9.99, many users will be left with an odd size credit; not big enough to buy a whole album; too big to throw away; but just right to donate to a charity that they feel a connection to. Parting with money that is in the form of a gift card is much easier than parting with your own hard earned cash. Apple could even take the gift card option to a new level and market some cards specifically to users as a means to donate to charity. These cards could come with designs that promote National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Autism Awareness Month or other national campaign that they want to be affiliated with.

So, how would this benefit Apple? I believe there are various ways, but the primary benefit would be all of the opportunities for brand strengthening PR.

Sure, Apple is beloved by many people — however, in the area of charitable giving, Mr. Jobs has nothing on Mr. Gates. Furthermore, a few of Apple’s decisions lately have made them look a bit more like “the man” than they probably would like. A good dose of the warm and fuzzies could put them back on the road to being the warm-hearted tech gods they want to be viewed as.

By facilitating the donation of millions of dollars to deserving charities, Apple can in a roundabout way take credit for the donations of others. Think of the headlines: “Apple facilitates over $100M in charitable donations in 2011″ or “Sales of the pink iTunes card for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, bring an additional $30M to the charity” — these powerful headlines, flaunting huge donations, would be big wins for the hearts and minds of the gadget buying public.

Moreover, I also believe there is a distinct possibility that offering this service could, in fact, increase sales of the core (revenue generating) items on iTunes. As more users think of iTunes when considering charitable donations, this will increase traffic, these visits are likely to result in purchases of music, movies and apps. Sure… there is also a distinct possibility that offering the option to spend your iTunes card credit on charitable donations could cut into Apple’s profit margins a bit, but I think that is the less likely scenario.

So, come on Steve, you know what it’s like more than most to be in poor health and depend on the generosity of others to bring you the life saving donation you need. If you move quickly, you can probably get it up and running by the holidays!

Michael Brown is the VP of Media and Entertainment at Digitaria. This article can also be found on his personal blog: