20 years of Cause Marketing

Part 1: Pink revisited

By Cathy Bueti, author of Breastless in the City and blogger

Pink has been my favorite color ever since I was a little girl. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31 years old, and I’ve never looked at that color the same again. After my diagnosis and during my treatment, friends and family started buying up all things pink. From pink tic-tacs to pink M&M candies, my head was spinning from all the pink and possibly too much sugar. I know they did it in support of me, but at the time, it was just a reminder that I had cancer.

Furthermore, I started to wonder why corporations, which on every other front care about making money, suddenly “get philanthropy” when it comes to breast cancer. Now I question the motivation of companies who slap the pink ribbon on their products. I feel exploited as a survivor and feel that most companies use the pink ribbon to increase their sales. Some of the products adorned with the ribbon are completely inappropriate: A pink snuggie? Pink sharpie pens? And this year’s favorite: pink buckets of fried chicken.  Many of the companies who say they support breast cancer are putting out products with known carcinogens in the ingredients. They want to raise awareness about breast cancer by generously giving money for “research.” Research into what, I often wonder? Breast cancer? What type of breast cancer? What aspect of breast cancer? They make it sound so simple, but are they prepared to reduce my exposure to carcinogens by cleaning up their products?

As a breast cancer survivor, I don’t want to come off as ungrateful, but there are many ways to support women with breast cancer that don’t involve buying a pink ribbon product. Until there are some serious changes in FDA policies governing safe cosmetics, for example, I think that consumers need to ask more questions. Otherwise, how do I know where the money is going? And if there is any doubt, I’d rather donate directly to the organization I want to support.

I am glad that the pink ribbon has brought breast cancer into the spotlight, but corporate greed too often gets in the way of social responsibiity.

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Part 2:  Enough is enough

By Alice Price Styles, BCA Summer Intern

As BCA celebrates 20 years of activism, we still face an uphill struggle when it comes to pink ribbon marketing.

Almost 20 years ago, in 1992, Charlotte Haley, the original distributor of peach-colored ribbons for breast cancer, turned down a business proposition from Self magazine and Evelyn Lauder.  The previous year, Lauder guest edited a highly successful inaugural Breast Cancer Awareness month issue of the magazine and wanted to follow up with something even bigger.  Haley had been using her ribbons as a call to action: “Wake up your legislators! Let them know only 5 percent of the NCI budget is spent on cancer prevention.” Self and Lauder had other ideas: Place a ribbon on every cosmetics counter selling Estee Lauder cosmetics across the country. Connect a cosmetic corporation to a really good cause, breast cancer awareness. Given a choice, who’s not going to purchase a product whose proceeds benefit breast cancer research?

That was nearly 20 years ago. Now, come October, everything money can buy is available with a “benefiting breast cancer” pink ribbon attached. Inspired perhaps by the cautious intuition of Charlotte Haley and the science-based evidence that demonstrates that many products contain carcinogens and contribute to our involuntary environmental exposure, we encourage everyone, especially during October, to ask questions before they buy a pink ribbon product.

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  • What is the company doing to assure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?
  • How much money actually goes toward breast cancer programs and services? Where is the money going?
  • What types of programs are being supported?
  • Click here for more information on BCA’s Think Before You Pink campaign.

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This entry was posted in BCA News.