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What’s Wrong With This Cause Marketing Paper Icon? Let Me Count the Ways

A friend recently found the paper icon at the left at a bowling alley in metropolitan Salt Lake City, Utah, where I live and asked my opinion.

Where to start?
  • There was, my friend said, no indication in the bowling alley of who the benefiting charity is, aside from the pink ribbon, which denotes the fight against breast cancer.
  • Susan G. Komen for the Cure would almost certainly consider the phrase “Bowl for The Cure” a copyright and/or a trademark violation. If this were a Komen campaign it would carry their trademarked version of the pink ribbon. The icon would also be a darn-sight more sophisticated.
  • There’s no identifying marks on the paper icon except the pink ribbon.
  • There’s no explanation on the back of the paper icon; just acres of unused white space.
  • Speaking of size it’s nearly 10-inches high and 4-inches wide at its widest point. It could easily be two-thirds its present size and be just as effective.
  • The paper stock is pretty heavy, I’d say at least 80-pound. It doesn’t need to be any heavier than about 60-pound.
  • Shaping it like a bowling pin means a custom die-cut, which is another unnecessary expense. It could just as easily be a rectangle.
  • There’s two colors… the pink and the black… which is fine by me. But they probably could have gotten away with just pink, which would have represented another slight cost savings.
  • The two typefaces, the script and sans serif at the top look cheap to me.
  • Overall, the icon is rather bland looking.
  • When paper icons are shaped after the sponsor rather than the cause, as in this one shaped like a bowling pin, it usually strikes me as being too self-referential to the sponsor and self-defeating. In this way the halo is reflecting light from the sponsor to the cause, rather than the cause to the sponsor.
  • It appeared this month, February 2011, rather than during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, when it could ride the coattails of thousands of other pink ribbon promotions. I assume the intent was to run the campaign near Valentine's Day. But the connection between breast cancer and Valentine's Day is tenuous at best.
The analytical among you know the biggest problem is the first one. As powerful and versatile as the pink ribbon is, it nonetheless requires identification with a specific breast cancer cause to be fully effective.


Noland Hoshino said…
Point #2 about copyright infringement made me chuckle because I know it could happen. Bottomline, their heart is in the right place. But, they should've consulted an expert like you Paul before launching campaign.
Hi Noland:

Thanks for the comments. I'd chuckle, too, except that Komen has spent real money suing 100 other (usually) smaller charities for infringement on variations of 'for the cure.'

Colbert has joked about on his show.

Thanks again.

Warm regards,

PS to My Readers: Noland is a fine cause marketing consultant himself with a special emphasis on social media.
Steve Drake said…

So many missed opportunities out there like this one and the "Valentine's Red Heart" (for Am Heart Association) I found in my local grocery Sunday.[]

You've nailed it on your post.

Hi Steve:

Paper icons/Pinups are pretty straightforward.

They're simple, but they aren't necessarily easy to do right, as your post demonstrates so well.

Thanks, brother.

Warm regards,
JMS said…
I think there's one more (and most important) problem for this social campaign. “Message Execution”.

Ok, the first point is good one, no awareness, no history, no mention, no communication in place. Just plain simple...

But…. In bowling the figure of the bowling pin, why not the bowling ball?

Let’s play with semiotics:

Pin = the goal--- the enemy, the last line. The player must eliminate all of the 10 pins to win the game.

The ball = your weapon, your friend, the strength and courage to defeat the enemy (voila! The pins!)

Ok, it was just a paper, expensive, pink and black, cheap font--- but we need to look through the glass of water.. and even more in a social marketing campaign.

Out there’s a bunch of good ideas for this health promotion issue, just a plain and simple paper doesn´t will get the job done. Try using some 360º communication, experience marketing strategies---I got one right now in my mind:

paint, envelope, use something affordable to make random bowling pins black and some bowling balls pink… yep you get it! The black pins are the cancer, the disease, and the bowling ball your ally… if a black pin shows in front of a ball player the message will be: Let’s fight the cancer! Save the girls! Or something like that…. And the place, the owners of the bowling maybe can reward in any form to the player that brings down in the first shot the black pin…I hope I can make myself clear. (and yep, we need communication inside the place to make awareness)

Experience, engage, play and learn…. That’s the big idea.

Greeting everyone!
Keep making a better world!

my twitter account if you want to talk a little bit more:
Hi Jose:

I think it's safe to say that your the first person to ever use the word semiotics on this blog.

Thanks for raising the level of the conversation.

Warm regards,
JMS said…
Don't say that Paul, I'm very very pleased to find a place where I can share my toughts and passions, and of course listen to those great voices who wants to save the world.
I'll try to keep in touch constantly :) Have a nice day!
Hi Jose:

Thanks. And please let me know about cause marketing in Mexico City.

Warm regards,

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