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Breast Cancer is at it again. Perhaps no other medical condition has driven so much branding and advertising. From the shoes on professional football players, to little pink tic-tacs, to the pink recycle can outside of my home- breast cancer marketing is truly achieving awareness. But, at what end?
There is a real buzz on the internet right now suggesting that big corporations are exploiting cancer patients in the interest of good old fashioned profit. “Often, I hear the argument that we would be better off if companies would just donate the dollars that they spend on marketing these products or creating these products,” says Chris Mann, associate manager of brand marketing for New Balance, which for the past eight years has given a percentage of the sales of its “Lace Up for the Cure” shoe, apparel, and accessory collection to Komen.
Aimee Picchiat AOL’s Daily Finance writes, “the breast cancer-specific packaging is more an indication of savvy marketing than corporate benevolence. In some cases, there’s no guarantee at all that part of your purchase price will go to a charity; Procter and Gamble will only donate two cents of your pink Swiffer purchase if you have a specific coupon that appeared in newspapers a couple of weeks ago, for instance.” Blogger Jeanne Sather (The Assertive Cancer Patient) has been firing away, stating “Breast cancer is a disease. Not a marketing opportunity.” Exploiting a devastating disease in order to reap greater profits — while pretending it’s all about funding research, at least until you’re directly questioned about the fine print — may be legal and may even be good business, but man, is it ever icky. How many consumers realize their pink purchase is probably not doing a damned thing — or that any donation the company does make to charity is likely to be far exceeded by the extra dough they pocket by essentially tricking customers into believing every pink ribbon equals a donation? This is wrong.”
Sather is right. All to often pink ribbons are sold and the profit does not even benefit cancer research in the slightest. So, “why co-opt the pink ribbon if you’re not even raising money for breast cancer research? Because, like Axe body spray, fruity malt liquor and backhanded compliments, women go nuts for it” according to blogger Kate Harding. After all, 79% of people admitted the would switch to a similar ceteris paribus (all other things the same) brand if they directly sponsored a cause (Boston Globe). However, people selling these ribbons are not all sponsoring a cause. So what exactly is this sea of pink merchandise doing exactly than?
While it seems true that a lot of organizations have a lot to gain by the perpetuation of the pink brand, at the end of the day it is women with breast cancer who are suffering, daily. My Aunt died of cancer years ago. I must admit that if she were still here, I would be a little sad to see her suffering while crowds of people sported the color pink in October like it was something to get excited about. I really want to see the beef in all of the mass advertisement and publicity. It may be difficult to believe that a marketer would be speaking against too much promotion. This is because I know that if I don’t generate a suitable return of investment for a client within a reasonable time frame, they will be very dissatisfied. Only time will tell if this pink movement will erect more mansions, or allow us to keep our beautiful women right here with us where we truly need them.
If you or someone you know is suffering from the effects of Breast Cancer, please contact the Breast Cancer Support Group.