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Calling Out a Faux Cause Marketing Pinkwasher

One of the infuriating things about the pink ribbon, emblematic of the fight against breast cancer, is that no one owns it in the United States. Consequently you get really silly things like pink sex toys and pink-labeled watermelon and pick pocketknives and more insidious stuff like these collectible ornaments that were advertised in Sunday's Courier Journal newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky that are a clear and unambiguous case of pinkwashing.

Shouldn’t we just get rid of the mess and the chaos and just assign ownership of the pink ribbon to one charity and be done with it, much the way the trademark to the pink ribbon in Canada is owned by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation?

In a word, no.

Here’s why:

It’s very clear to me that the pink ribbon brand is much bigger because no one entity owns it than it would be if one entity did.

Consider the case of the Android operating system which is in more smart phones than Apple’s OS or RIM’s OS, mostly because Google gives licenses away for free. As a result you can get an Android phone from all the handset makers except Apple and RIM.

But what would happen if Apple or RIM or Google had a smart phone monopoly? Plainly fewer people would have smart phones and they’d be much more expensive.

For the pink ribbon, the test of this supposition comes from Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Komen owns several trademarks of its version of the pink ribbon. Now Komen is a very powerful brand, but which version of the pink ribbon do you see more often, Komen’s, which cants to the right and looks like a person running, or the one where the ribbon’s tails descend straight down?

OK, so the pink ribbon brand is bigger because it’s open source, but what’s the payoff for me or for the population in general?

Imagine for a second that we could go back in time to the Susan G. Komen organization in the 1980s… when the pink ribbon was first being used to signify the fight against breast cancer… and make a very persuasive case to Nancy Brinker to trademark the pink ribbon.

When you got back to 2011, I think you’d find that Komen was a smaller breast cancer charity. And, I think you’d find that fewer Federal research dollars were being spent on breast cancer research.

So we gotta grin and bear faux cause marketing like this which offers no money to any cause and blatantly misleads us with its pink ribbon.

Given that, the only satisfaction in cases like this comes from calling out pinkwashers like the Bradford Exchange.

Tip of the Hat to Kate B. in Louisville for the lead!

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