Cause Marketing

Every year, people spend millions of dollars on items with pink ribbons on them – all because consumers have been led to believe that their purchases will help end the breast cancer epidemic. This is not necessarily the case. Companies know that aligning themselves with “breast cancer awareness” will improve the public’s perception of them and increase their profits. Often, people think, “between a regular product and one that has a pink ribbon on it, I’ll choose the pink ribbon product so at least some of my purchase goes to breast cancer research”.

Unfortunately, we often have no idea how much these companies are raising or how it’s being spent — which leads to another question: What happens to the money that does make it to the cause? Is it doing anything worthwhile for women with, or at risk for breast cancer? Breast cancer rates continue to climb, year after year. We think that the huge amount of pink ribbon fundraising helps contribute to a sense that the “problem is solved”, though this is clearly not the case. As long as consumers think they’re doing something meaningful about breast cancer by participating in these campaigns, the real work that need to be done around treatment, prevention, and access to care will continue to be under-funded and ignored.

More on Cause Marketing

  • Welcome to Cancerland: A Mammogram Leads to a Cult of Pink Kitsch, by Barbara Ehrenreich (Harper’s, November 2001)
  • The Marketing of Breast Cancer, by Maryann Swissler (Alternet, September 2002)
  • Shopping for the Cure, by Ellen Leopold (BCA Newsletter, January 2001)
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    On National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM)

  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Now a Word About the Sponsors, by Barbara A. Brenner (BCA Newsletter, October 1995)
  • Public Relations and Cancer, by Judy Brady (BCA Newsletter, October 1998)
  • Seeing Our Interests Clearly, by Barbara A. Brenner (BCA Newsletter, February 1999)
  • National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye, by Nancy Evans (BCA Newsletter, October 1993)
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