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Research vs. Awareness in Pink Ribbon Cause Marketing

Most of the pink ribbon cause marketing we’ll see this month won’t make a clear distinction between research and awareness. Unless they say otherwise, the major pink ribbon charities put the money they raise from cause marketing where they deem best.

As a former charity executive, I’ve long argued that for charities that’s one of the principal advantages of cause marketing.

The problem is, over the years Komen in particular, but also other pink ribbon charities have positioned themselves as cure-seekers. It’s Susan G. Komen for the Cure, after all. But cancer cures are big-ticket items, costing billions of dollars and decades of time. So Komen, and others, have also covered their bets by also being about awareness. For instance, pressing women to get mammograms well before most doctors were recommending it.

If breast cancer is caught at the earliest stages, the five-year survivability rate is 98 percent. And the mortality rate for breast cancer has been clipped by 30 percent since 1992.

These are clear victories for the mission of breast cancer awareness.

Still, there’s a number of people who think that the only legitimate use of pink ribbon cause marketing monies is to fund research. In the effort above from etailer, “15% percent of your purchase of the month’s item (the Electric Mat) benefits research (my emphasis) at City of Hope.” The mat retails on the website for $78.

City of Hope in Duarte, California is one of just 41 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States. It’s a major and respected cancer research facility, in other words.

Does City of Hope do breast cancer awareness? Probably to some degree. But judging by the way positioned its campaign, they don’t want to sponsor any of that. They want to sponsor research. Movies like “Pink Ribbon, Inc.” cast a gimlet eye on the idea of breast cancer awareness, too.

If the goal is to cure cancer, is this suspicion of awareness warranted?

It kind of depends on what you mean when you say ‘cure’ cancer. If by cure you mean an infallible treatment after someone contracts cancer or a prophylactic like a vaccine that could prevent all forms of the disease, a cure may be yet be decades away.

But if by cure you mean a steady diminution over time of deaths due to cancer, well, then, that’s the world we live in right now.

And breast cancer awareness can take part of the credit for that right now, too.


Jen said…
You do realize that those of us who have dealt with bc are tired of being poster children for awareness? I am tired of seeing pink ribbons slapped on everything and absolutely refuse to participate in pink-tober. It is sad and a humiliating slap in the face to see the pink everywhere.

No one else has to deal with the embarassment of pink baskets of pink swag or people assuming you automatically support Komen because you had bc (I don't). Frankly, I would like to see much less awareness as we are freaking aware out the wazoo. How about awareness for lung cancer? Would you throw pink junk at a guy who had testicular cancer? I think not.

I just want October back...and I want people to stop assuming that because a pink ribbon is slapped on something, i will buy it...because that will automatically ensure I don't. Let's not forget, we don't even NEED most of the junk that is sold in the name of awareness....sad, sick and twisted that we have to fight to normalize our lives after dealing with bc.

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