PROFITEERING OFF OF BREAST CANCER

PINK WASHING - HOW YOU CAN HELP AND WHAT WE MUST DO ABOUT THIS PROBLEM.

pink breast cancer ribbon



Pink For Profit — I Hope Not!
By: Stan Breckenridge, MAS, Chairman, PPAI
October, 2008 - Promotional Products Business Magazine

I’ll be blunt:
This article may seem to counter what our industry is about, but please read through to the end.

When we promote green and/or pink products, are we always being good citizens? Are our intentions always sincere? Promotional products are an essential element in the marketing mix…

“Adding your message to a tangible product turns an ordinary message into a marketing experience your audience can see, touch, hear, smell and even taste. Promotional products are the only way to make a sensible and memorable impression.”

This elevator speech is tempered with the hope that when our products are used to raise breast cancer awareness (as they often are) they are being employed in a positive manner that actually fights breast cancer, not simply generates profit for the parties involved.

I am advocating that we engage in the proliferation of pink products and pink marketing in a responsible manner. Let’s make sure that each pink program we recommend is a sincere and genuine attempt to combat breast cancer and is not just “playing the pink ribbon card” because it’s an easy sell. Fortunately, we do know, from experience, that promotional products and services can and will support fund-raising programs and can effectively raise awareness.

My May 2008 PPB Chairman’s Letter defined greenwashing as an exaggeration of a company’s or product’s measure of eco-friendliness. Greenwashing misleads consumers by suggesting that a company or product is more environmentally responsible than it really is.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and, consequently, we are now seeing “pinkwashing.” The term refers to marketing practices in which advertisers might represent themselves as leaders in the ongoing struggle to eradicate breast cancer while sometimes engaging in practices that may actually contribute to the rising rates of the disease.

It is my opinion and to my utter dismay that some agencies spend plenty of time and money promoting how “pink” they are but very little on actually helping to raise money to find a cure.

Breast cancer has, quite frankly, become cause-related marketing. How much is spent on marketing compared to what is being contributed to research? Pink merchandise is synonymous with the battle to defeat this affliction. Consumers generally support pink-themed campaigns and products, but what percentage of their good intentions is actually benefiting the cause?

I find it incredible that the obvious cancer prevention solutions are rarely marketed—for example, quitting smoking, changing one's diet or avoiding unnecessary exposure to harmful elements. Critics are amazed at the almost total lack of focus on prevention, but in our world, prevention doesn’t necessarily equal profit, does it? It’s much more profitable to create programs that give consumers the opportunity to buy into the concept of contributing to a solution.

It is documented that some companies (outside our industry) exploit and employ the “pinkwashing” tactic for profit and, even worse, may even promote products that potentially contribute to breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Action (www.bcaction.org), founded in 1990, is an organization dedicated to supporting companies that are sincerely committed to finding a cure for breast cancer. One of its education campaigns, called “Think Before You Pink,” encourages consumers to ask critical questions when asked for a donation. Consumers are being challenged to ask:

• How much money actually goes to the cause?
• How are the funds being raised?
• Who gets the money?
• What types of programs are being supported?

The breast cancer movement needs intervention and action to generate real change. I am confident that our industry’s people and products are doing positive things to raise the consciousness level about breast cancer. Public awareness is now widespread, and our members have a real opportunity to do something to help. We know you’re doing good work, and we’d love to hear about your successful campaigns. Please send them to Atlanta Promo Breast Cancer PR Coordinator

Please visit our breast cancer awareness promotions site.

If you have any questions or need any other information, please call.

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