October is widely known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. This month, nationally recognized brands such as the NFL and Chevrolet, among hundreds of others, add pink flair to apparel, advertising, communications and more. A look at how the color pink became associated with breast cancer and the month of October lends us a valuable lesson in marketing and public relations (PR).
October was established as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 1985 by a partnership between the American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries, a pharmaceutical company that produces several drugs to combat breast cancer. The aim was to encourage more women to have mammograms in order to detect, diagnose and treat breast cancer.
The color pink came into play in 1993 when Evelyn Lauder of Estée Lauder founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and chose the pink ribbon as the symbol of the movement. From there, the campaign has grown, in large part to exposure from companies embracing the color and message, including the Hard Rock Café, Hooters, American Eagle and more. Now, the pink ribbon is one of the most recognized symbols in the country.
Through the adaption of Breast Cancer Awareness Month by various organizations, millions of dollars have been raised for research foundations and support organizations. For example, Caribou Coffee used a PR campaign to promote planting pink gardens in honor of a former employee who lost her battle to breast cancer. The company was able to raise a very significant donation for the Susan G. Komen Foundation as a result.
On the flipside, many for-profit organizations have been accused of jumping on the pink bandwagon simply for the exposure that the pink ribbon may bring to the brand. For example, Smith & Wesson debuted a pink-accented handgun in 2008, vaguely saying that a portion of proceeds went to a breast cancer awareness charity. A gun company trying to capitalize off a disease that is a cause of death for many women didn’t go over well. Organizations like this have faced scrutiny and consumers have become savvier in making sure to ask how funds are being used in regards to breast cancer research.
What can a company learn from lessons such as this? Simply by associating your brand with pink and breast cancer awareness – or any cause – simply isn’t enough. It’s important to adopt a cause for a genuine reason and be transparent with the results of your partnership.
At Oster, pink happens to be a color we love! Two of our team members have fought breast cancer and won. In fact, Hannah on our PR team is the current Susan G. Komen San Diego Honorary Survivor of the Year. To support this cause and the battle against this disease, we are supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month through various fundraising and awareness campaigns.
Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month!