Thursday, October 13, 2011

Too much pink?

Every year, people spend millions of dollars on items with pink ribbons on them – all because consumers have been led to believe that their purchases will help end the breast cancer epidemic. This is not necessarily the case. Companies know that aligning themselves with “breast cancer awareness” will improve the public’s perception of them and increase their profits. Often, people think, “between a regular product and one that has a pink ribbon on it, I’ll choose the pink ribbon product so at least some of my purchase goes to breast cancer research”. Unfortunately, we often have no idea how much these companies are raising or how it’s being spent.

I saw an article in yesterday's paper re: "pinkwashing", where a company does a breast cancer promotion but sells and profits from the pink-themed product. Has breast cancer become the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns? My suspicion is that the motive is not always entirely pure. For example, take Yoplait's offer to donate 10¢ to the Komen Foundation for every pink yogurt lid mailed to the company from September through December. Komen would get a bigger donation if consumers simply donated the 44¢ it costs to buy each stamp, not to mention the fact that donors would have to polish off 100 yogurts to come up with a $10 contribution--a formula that surely enriches Yoplait more than the breast-cancer cause.

Komen, which has raised $775 million for breast-cancer research, screening, education and treatment since it was established in 1982, makes a point of transparency about its pink campaigns, as do at least two other large charities: the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), started by Evelyn Lauder. Komen, for instance, insists that partners in pink-ribbon promotions reveal what percentage of sales will be allocated to the charity and how the money will be spent. They do not, however, require corporate partners to divulge the profits from the products or the amount spent promoting them.

So what happens to the money that does make it to the cause? Is it doing anything worthwhile for women with, or at risk for breast cancer? Activists worry that the sheer ubiquity of pink-ribbon campaigns creates an illusion that all is well in the world of breast-cancer research and treatment. We think that the huge amount of pink ribbon fundraising helps contribute to a sense that the “problem is solved”, though this is clearly not the case. We may have raised awareness, but incidence rates are higher than they were 30 years ago. We don't know how to prevent or cure the disease, and more than 40,000 women still die every year. Donors may feel they have done their bit by buying pink but it's even more vital that we keep pressure on the Federal Government to adequately support the biggest U.S. funder of breast-cancer research--the National Cancer Institute.

So think before you pink or at least read the fine print!

No comments:

Post a Comment