Think Before You Pink

Pink ChapstickEvery October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” which brings with it the most prominent form of Cause Marketing. Cause marketing is when a corporation aligns itself with a charity and donates a portion of its profits to the cause. Not to be confused with corporate philanthropy, cause marketing is attached to a media campaign and sales of products, is not an outright gift, and is not tax-deductable.

Cause marketing, while undeniably raising thousands of dollars for many causes, is considered somewhat controversial for several reasons

  1. It directly links charity with consumerism.
  2. The company receives the positive associations of the charity in exchange for a portion of profits
  3. The amount given to the charity can go without being specified at all, or relatively vague (for example 10% of profits, vs. 10% of MSRP?  Is the product profitable?)
  4. The charities chosen are often very “safe” – not doing important, if seemingly controversial, work that may be complicated for the company.

Research for a breast cancer cure is an example of a non-controversial charity. Who is against a cure for breast cancer? And the companies slyly avoid related messy issues surrounding a for profit health care system, breast cancer treatment, and the causes of breast cancer.

Think Before You Pink/Breast Cancer Action takes the complicated issues surrounding breast cancer and cause marketing head on. In addition to other work, they scrutinize Pink products and determine how much is actually being given to the charity. An example from Think Before You Pink’s website:

Yoplait lidsYoplait yogurt’s Save Lids to Save Lives fall campaign has urged consumers for the past nine years to buy pink-lidded cups of Yoplait yogurt. For each pink lid mailed back to the company by December 31, Yoplait donates ten cents to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, up to $1.5 million. A woman would have to eat three containers of Yoplait every day during the four-month campaign to raise $36 for the cause. Of increasing concern to consumers, many cows are given rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone). Recent studies show that rBGH dairy products may be linked with an increased risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancer.

Another example from the site, this time of greenwashing pinkwashing:

In 2006, Estee Lauder will donate $100,000 from the sale of Pure Color Crystal Lipstick in Elizabeth Pink to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in an effort to raise awareness about breast cancer. Yet, the company refuses to sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics to ensure that its products do not contain chemicals that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer. Currently, Estee Lauder products still contain parabens, a class of chemicals linked to breast cancer.

As with all cause marketing campaigns, it’s not that donating thousands of dollars to a cause isn’t helping.  But it may seem like the companies are helping more than they are.  One must evaluate what each party (the cause and the corporation) has to gain, what each demands in return, and who comes out ahead in the end.

This entry was posted in News, Reference Library. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Jim says:

    instead of the tricky campaign, pecentages and packaging why not just donate the money and say “hey look what we did for charity”?

  2. patrick says:

    Why do that when they could MAKE money supporting breast cancer research?

  3. Dneese says:

    Today I was attracted to a cute pink cupcake at a Michel’s coffee store in Sydney. A whopping 30 cents of the $2.70 cupcake would be donated toward breast cancer.

    Ok, I like pink cupcakes, so you had me. Starving beore class i woofed into the pink baked treat only to taste rancid palm oil, a known carcinogen as the “butter” part of the cake. So offended was I, that the icing was not even picked off.

    Where is the Michel’s coffee site..I have tem in my cross hairs.



  4. […] heard plenty about pinkwashing and greenwashing…well, this is GOLDwashing…coinage/coupons for calorie-laden […]

  5. Liz says:

    And we are being chastized right now because we trademarked our Awareness Campaign phrases? In other words, yes we have the mark and will issue the use to legitamate organizations who will futher the cause.

    Imagine how much could have been raised had someone had that foresight with the pink ribbon?

One Trackback

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>