Think Pink: Breast-Cancer Brands Aren’t All Equal

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One of the more familiar kinds of cause-related marketing in the US is the pink ribbon image affixed to products promising a cut of revenues to fund breast-cancer research. But faced with a pink-ribbon blitz on myriad products, Newsweek’s Claudia Kalb pictures the consumer wondering, “Should I buy this brand over that one? How much am I actually contributing to breast-cancer research? Is any of this a scam?”

The issue of how much of a cause-supporting item’s revenues actually supports that cause, not to mention (as explored in Slate last month) what percentage of a charity’s overall income is spent on administrative costs, is even more complicated when it comes to breast-cancer charities. Specifically, no two pink ribbons are necessarily equal.[more]

Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s pink-ribbon logo is trademarked, and Kalb notes that when it comes to selecting brand partners, “They won’t take everybody.” This is not the case for brands bearing non-Komen ribbons, so Kalb suggests a little consumer research on the brands as well as specific details of its charity campaign. For its part, Komen has a handy guide that applies to cause-related marketing on the whole, and Charity Navigator offers information on the charities themselves.

Kalb could be describing an ideal brand partnership when she describes the optimum relationship between cause and product:

Ideally, the organization wants to see companies not only brand their products, but educate consumers about breast cancer and participate in activities.

This could somewhat explain brand failures like Harley-Davidson perfume. The ideal relationship between two brands, or a cause and a brand, communicates and executes two promises, or a new promise that is a combination of the two.

Otherwise, the educated consumer thinking pink might end up seeing red.

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