It’s October, and the month’s signature color is bursting out all over.
No, not the yellows and reds or autumn leaves, or even Halloween’s orange and black motif. Rather, pink is the dominant color these days in tribute to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and its signature pink ribbon.
It would be difficult for a financial journalist to ignore such a huge fundraising, branding and marketing powerhouse. My Sunday circulars this past weekend were bursting with ads for be-ribboned products, from personal-checks-by-mail and Pringles to Egg-Land’s eggs and whole-grain bread to a pantry full of Procter & Gamble cleaning supplies and household sundries.
The tie-ins are spreading beyond consumables. For example, one ad touted the Hope for a Cure keepsake ring from The Concorde collection presumably benefits the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc., whose logo was included in its ad, as it was in an e-mail I received from the Writer’s Digest offering deals on how-to books. And to show the international scope of the movement, check out this article from ITP.net: The Burj Al Arab, a luxury hotel in Dubai, will this week begin an auction for a 24-karat gold iPad — engraved with a pink ribbon — with the proceeds going to breast cancer initiatives.
Well, you get the idea. October is a great month to look at how so-called cause marketing benefits companies and corporate sponsors, and whether all of this co-branding really benefits the charities, research and other efforts it purports to support.
Skeptical analysis goes back a couple of decades, but the proliferation of October pink in recent years has prompted more criticism along the lines of the movie Pink Ribbons Inc., which debuted last year and is based on the book of the same name, the premise being that breast-cancer campaigns and marketing tie-ins have produced little in the way of medical progress for patients.
And check out this column from the Canadian publication NOW; it suggests that the very products waving the ribbon may be produced under carcinogenic condtions. An interesting question to pose to any companies doing pink-ribbon tie-ins from your region. Talk with marketing firms, public relations consultants, charity watchdogs, corporate ethicists and others about what’s at stake when a business or corporation links its name and products to a cause. Do Pink Ribbon Bagels at Panera or Pink Ribbon Produce at Price Chopper supermarkets really benefit people suffering from disease? What should consumers know when they’re making decisions about where to allocate discretionary dollars?
If your beats don’t include marketing, this difficult disease also lends itself to a variety of technology stories. If you have biomed or bioengineering firms on hand, an explainer about the latest in diagnostic tools, surgicla techniques or treatments is in order. What are the latest trends in the idependent imaging industry — those stand-alone centers offering MRI and other scans? This blog for the refurbished-equipment sector of the industry offers a lot of good story nuggets. The latest edition of Imaging Economics, an industry publication, has an interesting report about women’s imaging, tied to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month; you might want to see what’s pending in your state regarding, for example, breast density legislation.
And with the fourth quarter a last stand for most charities, you also might want to start pondering a consumer or investigative piece about charity drives .. more on that in a future blog post, but meanwhile, keep an eye out for examples on the airwaves, billboards and in the direct mail you receive.