Marketers Think Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

Dozens of companies are getting on the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) bandwagon, creating special pink-themed merchandise and donating a portion of proceeds to breast cancer research.

Companies are increasingly using breast cancer cause marketing to reinforce their brand images and differentiate themselves from their competitors. Many marketers have partnered with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which hosts the Komen Race for the Cure events.

Komen's corporate partners include those who are on the Komen Million Dollar Council. In addition to a financial contribution of at least $1 million, each commits to spreading educational messages. The companies include American Airlines, BMW of North America, Boston Market, Ford Division, Hallmark Gold Crown Stores, KitchenAid, Lean Cuisine, M&M Brand Chocolate Candies, Pier 1 Imports and Yoplait USA.

M&M Mars has created a special pink blend pack of M&M'S Chocolate Candies that will be available through November. The company will donate $550,000 to Komen, and will invest $395,000 in the M&M's Brand/Komen Nascar race. My M&M's will donate 10% of "Promise Blend" sales to Komen and the company's M&M'S World will donate 10% of Pink Ribbon merchandise sold in stores in 2007 to Komen.



Lean Cuisine is in its seventh year of the "Do Something Good for the Cure" promotion, which runs through the end of the year. It includes specially marked packages of its frozen entrees highlighting its partnership with Komen. In addition, the company is selling lunch bags for $9.95, of which $5 will be donated to Komen.

Navigating the expanding sea of pink ribbon promotions requires consumers to ask a few critical questions, according to Breast Cancer Action (BCA), a grassroots education and advocacy organization of breast cancer survivors and their supporters. The San Francisco-based group will launch its "Think Before You Pink" campaign ( on Oct. 1. This will be the sixth year that BCA has conducted the campaign.

The group suggests that consumers question the amount of money being donated to breast cancer compared to the amount being spent on marketing, the types of programs the money supports, and what a company is doing to ensure its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic, says BCA spokesperson Katrina Kahl. BCA is focusing its efforts this year on what it calls "pinkwashers"--companies that promote a pink-ribbon campaign but manufacture a product that may be contributing to the disease, she says.

Other breast cancer-related promotions include:

  • Estee Lauder has a Pink Ribbon Collection of products that supports its own Breast Cancer Research Foundation, dedicated to funding clinical and genetic research. To date, the foundation has raised more than $180 million.
  • Oreck Corp. is selling a special pink Oreck XL vacuum cleaner. For every one purchased through the end of this year, Oreck will donate $50 to Komen, with a minimum donation of $500,000 and no maximum limit.
  • Campbell Soup Co. will line grocery store shelves nationwide with its limited-edition, pink-and-white cans. Campbell has pledged to donate $300,000 to help support breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment to a number of breast cancer awareness initiatives including Komen, and Giving Hope a Hand, The Kroger Co.'s corporate women's health initiative.
  • 20th Century Fox and MGM Home Entertainment have promised to donate a minimum of $250,000 to Komen from the sale of specially packaged "chick flick" movies in a DVD sleeve with a pink border.
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