Seeing ‘Pink’ Misdirection Play

Pink is the new orange, at least in October. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month and products promoting discussion and research are everywhere; even the NFL is joining “Pinktober.”

NFL went pink the October for Breast Cancer Awareness month. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

NFL went pink this October for Breast Cancer Awareness month. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Controversy has emerged around brands pink-washing products for their own financial gain. These items are released, as special editions, in October but don’t benefit breast cancer research or patients. Leisha Davison-Yasol, blogger and breast cancer survivor, voiced her annoyance with Pinktober on a Huffington Post blog.  She asks people to rethink pink, shop wisely and donate to the cause directly.

Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times

Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times

Although some products go pink only to promote general awareness, there are many that actually support breast cancer organizations. The New York Times lists Bobbi Brown, Essie and Marc Jacobs as a few brands whose pink products raise money for a cure.

According to Cone Communications’ Social Impact Study, 89 percent of Americans are likely to switch to a brand that is associated with a cause.

A statistic like this might have clients rushing to align their products with a cause like Breast Cancer Awareness without thinking about the big picture, including their credibility.

Do you think it’s a good public relations move to go pink while only promoting Breast Cancer awareness and not donating to the cause?  Does this create an image of corporate-social responsibility? If your client wanted to align with a cause, what recommendations would you give them?


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4 Responses to Seeing ‘Pink’ Misdirection Play

  1. Mackenzie Keller says:

    From a PR practitioner’s perspective, I can definitely see the appeal of going “pink” despite a brand not donating to a cause. In a lay-person’s term, it’s the equivalent of a brand going on the “bandwagon” and creating something pink in order to look like the brand is a supporter of breast cancer research. It definitely creates an image of social responsibility even though they do not actually have a corporate social responsibility model. I could see a group of PR pros creating a list of pros and cons of creating a “pink” product and the only perceived downside would be being “outed” as not actually supporting breast cancer research, which unfortunately, is a risk most PR pros are willing to take in the midst of a pink-crazy October.

    If my client was to align with a cause, I would recommend choosing one that goes unnoticed. This creates more media opportunity because it allows the media to explain what the cause is about, making the brand look like a thought leader in the community.

  2. Lauren Basile says:

    I don’t think “going pink” in October is a truly good PR move unless you are somehow directly donating to the cause through profits. Although having pink everywhere helps raise awareness and publicity for the cause, it does nothing to actually support it. I have noticed this trend where everyone is coming out with pink editions during October and as an educated consumer you have to dig and do research to see if they are actually donating money to support breast cancer research. Great PR move for those that truly care and are involved!

  3. Ashley Provenzano says:

    I think it is great when companies create “pink” products, but it is misleading to the consumer whether or not they actually donate to the cause. Informing the public is good, but if you’re going to take the first step, I feel that they should go all the way and actually donate to the cause they’re promoting. If they don’t, it seems a little bit like a cheat, and no one wants that associated with their company. If my client wanted to align with a cause, I would recommend they do so, but to make sure it’s a cause they strongly stand by, and to make sure they don’t just walk around the edges of it, but completely dive in.

  4. Charlotte Das says:

    I definitely understand the blogger’s thoughts about how people think they are supporting breast cancer research, even though they are really not doing anything helpful or constructive towards the issue. However, I think the main purpose of “Pinktober” is to raise awareness about the cause; these companies just want to bring attention to the seriousness of cancer. Not all companies/organizations can afford to donate directly to breast cancer research, but by going pink for the month of October, they could spark the thought in their customers or the general public and cause them to make a difference and partake in fighting for the cure. I do agree that going bra-less probably doesn’t help much, but I definitely think the “Pinktober” helps in that it simply raises awareness, which in turn, causes someone to take action. If my client wanted to partake in this, I would advise them to donate a percentage/amount of their product/service to the cause, but if they are simply participating in “Pinktober” to raise awareness, I would make sure they disclose that to the public.

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