Sunday, October 11, 2009

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Cause Bandwagon

If you're seeing pink ribbons at every corner and you're not sure why, October is breast cancer awareness month. If you didn't know it's October, I don't know what to tell you about that.

Breast cancer and I have history. Not a personal history, but family history. I was named after my grandmother; she died of breast cancer while I was still growing in my mom's tummy. This history is why I've done my fair share of relays and walks to raise money for a cure.

Noting that it's a personal issue for me and many others, I have to say that fighting breast cancer has become one of the most widely recognized charitable causes ever. Aside from the RED campaign to fight AIDs in Africa, I can't think of a more marketed charitable cause. Pink is the new black. Pink is in. Unless you're wearing a pink polo with a popped collar, that's out.

But seriously. As a marketer, I feel compelled to ask how effective is it to hop on the breast cancer bandwagon? With the exception of Yoplait and Avon, if your company is linked to the fight against breast cancer in some way, I'm not going to know about it or remember it. I'm not saying that supporting breast cancer is a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination--of course, I'm in favor of eradicating all forms of cancer. But in terms of supporting your brand, in terms of differentiating your brand, there are other ways to do cause marketing.

With international organizations, like CancerHelpUK, noting that there are over 200 different types cancers, it's tempting to suggest just picking another one. However, you could do better for your brand by choosing a charitable cause or organization that is in someway related to your business. For example, a publishing company could partner with a literacy organization to improve the reading level nationwide.

While choosing a cause that meshes with the nature of your business is important for cause marketing, I imagine the pink cause bandwagon is good for sales. How many people out there own pink shirts (or shirts with a pink ribbon) specifically in support of the breast cancer cause? Pink teddy bears? Pink-ribboned water bottles? Pink anything as a sign of solidarity with the cause?

Pictures by Flickr user Musiclver05:

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