Defining Cause in Marketing Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month — so get ready to see pink! The American Cancer Society projected there would be 255,180 invasive breast cancer diagnoses (252,710 women and 2,470 men) and 41,070 breast cancer deaths (40,610 women and 460 men) in the United States this year. This disease has affected many lives and many have joined the fight against it. No matter where you go, whether your local grocery or an NFL game, you’ll see some form of pink as a symbol of support. Even the White House was lit pink for this year’s campaign:

Some retailers will donate a portion of their sales of pink products to support different breast cancer charities. With all of this support, it begs the question how brands can stand out from the rest while becoming synonymous with breast cancer awareness.

Scott Panksy (@Spanksy), partner and co-founder of Allison and Partners, explained  there can be a disconnect between breast cancer awareness organizations and companies that support them with “programs” and others that support them with “platforms.” As defined in Pansky’s 2014 Must See Monday presentation: “Evolution of Cause Marketing,” a platform is: “a more holistic effort that is part of a company’s or organization’s culture. It’s strategic, connected to the brand and usually creates a synonymous connection in the consumer’s mind.” Therefore, in order for a brand to be meaningfully connected with a cause, they must have a higher level of connection than simply turning their products pink.

Susan G. Komen, whose goal is: “to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50 percent in the U.S. by 2026,” has significant corporate support levels including:

Among these three categories, the “Champions” are the best examples of those brands/individuals that regard Susan G. Komen and breast cancer awareness as a “platform.” They not only support the cause financially, but donations of “time, resources, energy and effort.”  The Dallas Cowboys showed their support by kicking off this month with pink cheerleader uniforms:

Although it may be hard to get lost in all of the pink, companies should continue to get involved in organizations, like Susan G. Komen and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. However, to create a successful cause marketing campaign, must be more than simply turning products pink. In order to be recognized as an advocate and authentic supporter for breast cancer research, companies need to fundraise and donate their time (including hosting events and personal interactions with people suffering from the disease) to be effectively engaged with the cause.

What companies can you identify when you think of breast cancer awareness?  If one of your clients wanted to launch a breast cancer awareness cause marketing campaign, how would you define them from all the rest?

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