The line between philanthropy and cause-related marketing is a blurry one.
According to the Center for Disease Control, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women. In 2009 alone, the CDC released data that said 211,731 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 40,676 women died from the disease. This disease is tragic and heartbreaking, but is everything being done that can be? If the iconic symbol of breast cancer cannot drive marketers away from seeking a profit, then instead it should be taken away.
I’m talking about the famous pink ribbon. This small item has spurred a desire to find a cure for breast cancer in all corners of the globe, but it has also enticed corporations and salesmen.
In 2011’s documentary “Pink Ribbons, Inc,” directed by Lea Pool, the relationship between philanthropy and cause-related marketing is examined.
The documentary starts out giving the audience historical information on the pink ribbon. One interesting fact to note is that the ribbon was not originally pink. A 68-year-old woman named Charlotte Haley, who hand made the ribbon in a salmon color, created the first breast cancer awareness ribbon.
Charlotte was approached by make-up and perfume giant Estee Lauder who wanted to buy her idea, but she said no. Estee Lauder decided they did not need her permission and simply changed the color of the ribbon to pink, and the rest is history.
The pink ribbon symbol has been used on all kinds of products, from cereal and fruit drinks to shoes, watches, and buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. It has even appeared painted on NFL football fields for breast cancer awareness month, and the White House hung up a massive pink ribbon in front of the main entrance. The products being sold that are associated with the pink ribbon are endless. If you do not believe me, simply google "pink ribbon products" and look at all the pictures that appear.
I have absolutely no problem raising money for breast cancer because it is a disease that we must find a cure to, and the only way to do that is with enhanced research funded by money. However, I do have a problem with the companies that are benefiting from the use of the pink ribbon to make an extra profit. They used a strategy called cause-related marketing, where they market a product with a sentimental value to increase the chances of a customer purchasing it.
An example lies in the NFL’s pink campaign. According to SBNation.com, the NFL is accused of making $3 million since 2009 from its pink items, but is only actually donating 5 percent of that money to the American Cancer Society.
My idea to end the discrepancy between charity and cause-based profit for companies is to get rid of the pink ribbon. First off, breast cancer is not a pretty thing. It is not glorious and sparkly like the pink ribbon. Breast cancer is a serious and life-threatening disease. It causes pain and anguish among families.
A happy pink ribbon should not represent this.
Instead, I propose a word, like Lance Armstrong’s "Livestrong," to represent the breast cancer awareness movement. Perhaps something as simple as the word “hope,” still in pink for continuity, can be the new face of the breast cancer movement. As long as consumers are not being guilt tripped into purchasing a new brand of chocolate just because it has a pink ribbon on it, the quest to crush breast cancer has a bright future.