It’s Pinktober …..The marketing and commercialization of pink is everywhere you look. But the question remains is the pink epidemic a supportive cause or simply a way for big name companies to improve their image?
When National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was started in 1984, it helped open a public dialogue about a disease that kills more than 40,000 women a year. Since then, hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised to fund breast cancer research, education and medical services.
The majority of funding for breast cancer research comes from the federal government. However, the additional funding comes mostly from the three big national organizations: the Komen Foundation, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Avon Foundation. Representatives dismiss much of the criticism of pink-ribbon promotions and each of the foundations has taken steps to improve accountability.
Marketers have slapped pink on everything from NFL players, to a Delta 757 Airplanes to major landmarks around the world. The Hard Rock Cafe is serving a special Pink Sunset cocktail this month with a lime twist in the shape of a breast cancer ribbon floating on top. Smith & Wesson guns, pizza boxes, rubber duckies, coffee mugs, M&M’s, pink-frosted oreos, cleaning products, Everlast boxing gloves, Vera Wang mattresses, all the way down to our everyday clothing. Everywhere you turn you are sure to find pink somewhere. Everything but the leaves on the trees seem to turn pink in October. Each store you enter is typically overflowed with pink-ribbon products for sale.
Did you know that the pink ribbon is unlicensed and unregulated, so any company can use it, anyone can advertise with it in any way they want. Without it actually contributing funds directly to the cause/ So just because you buy something for breast cancer awareness, does not mean you are directly donating to the cause.
Advocates for pink marketing believe the pink theme is doing its job very effectively. “I’m thinking there should be even more pink if it helps us get rid of this disease forever,” said ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure in a statement to NEWSWEEK. “These products provide tens of millions of dollars for research and support programs; they remind people to get their screenings and allow people to participate in this movement conveniently … Of course, people should look at Web sites and labels to make an informed choice, but it’s short-sighted to simply dismiss the positive impact that businesses are having in our fight to end an awful disease.” And regardless of whether or not funding is going to the cause the awareness. kinmanship and support that pink provides is worth the community it creates and supports on an everyday level.
Robbie Finke, director of marketing for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, also defends the need for pink marketing. One woman will see a pink tennis racket and think, ‘I’ve got to make that mammogram appointment,’ ” Finke said. “Another might say, ‘My aunt was just diagnosed. I want to donate.’ A third woman will pick it up and think, ‘Didn’t I just get an e-mail reminding me to write Congress about a bill?’ ” The pink racket, she said, is a trigger.
To protect yourself from getting caught up in the pink marketing, it is recommended consumers ask themselves five questions before participating in any cause related marketing promote a product.
According to the Susan G. Komen website the five questions to ask are:
1. Is this company committed?
Read the product packaging and promotional materials or display and visit the company Web site to make sure the company is credible and committed to the cause.
2. How is the program structured?
Transparency is key. Is the company clearly stating how the money is raised and how much will be going to charity? For example, if it’s a donation per purchase, ask how much of purchase price goes to charity—is it two percent or 10 percent—or some other amount? If there is a minimum contribution guaranteed by the company, what is the amount? Is there a maximum donation that will be made by the company?
3. Who does the program benefit?
Does it support a well-managed, reputable non-profit or fund? Again, we recommend that consumers read Web sites. We make it very clear on our site who we are, how we structure programs and how the monies are used. The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance is one resource for information on non-profit organizations if you are unsure (visit www.give.org).
4. How will the organization that benefits use my money?
It should be abundantly clear where the monies go. What organization will they support? Will the dollars generated go to research, education, community programs or all of the above? We are very specific about our programs, activities and grants awarded to support our mission to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease.
5. Is the program meaningful to me?
Is the program supporting a cause you believe in or have been touched by? Based on the details of the program and the potential for dollars to be raised does the program make sense to you? Selecting the right program is a personal choice based on your interests, your passions and a cause that is important to you.
A problem with pink isn’t always awareness. Breast cancer has become big business, a huge revenue-generating machine for companies that offer “pink” products or link to breast cancer to improve their own image. Never mind that some of the very companies that promote breast cancer awareness actually sell, manufacture or use chemicals or products that are linked to its cause; or that some suspect that advertising expenditures often exceed actual donations to the cause.
Yet for all the pink frenzy, the number of annual deaths from breast cancer remains the same today as it was ten years ago. All the pink advertising throughout the world may help towards early detection, and branding breast cancer may be bringing more attention to the cause, but the cure for cancer is still an unsolved mystery. Each and every day with or without the symbol of pink, cancer still makes it mark on millions of people globally.