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Pink Ribbon = Big Profits

Lucy writes about something that she and her fellow breast cancer sisters have known for a while - and it's not pretty.

I’ve always loved pink. But not just any pink; the Barbie pink that’s associated with breast cancer ribbons today. Little did I know that pink would one day symbolize more to me.

Now, the pink ribbon is everywhere. I’m thankful that women wear them to support people like me. In fact, my daughter often wears one. That being said, I’m not annoyed with you if you don’t feel the need to sport one – even if it’s October. I also don’t get offended if you skip buying an expensive can of pink labeled soup and instead reach for the generic brand. Many of us are closely watching where every penny is being spent.

However, I AM annoyed with businesses that have turned every product out there pink for October. Making money off the pink ribbon has become one of the most profitable money making campaigns ever. So much so, that even the owner of a pornographic Web site has begun a new campaign; trading page views for pennies to be donated to Susan Komen. Fellow breast cancer blogger (and Stage IV metastatic patient), Ann Silberman shared her letter back to the pornographer. You can read that here.  

I can’t fathom the gall this man possesses to jump on the breast cancer money making band wagon. And, folks, don’t kid yourselves; that’s exactly what it is.

Did you know that almost every business that has turned their product pink and is advertising that proceeds will go to a cancer charity, has a preset cap? In other words, once they meet the (often paltry) amount pledged, the rest is pure, pure profit. We, the unsuspecting public, have no way to determine when that cap is met, so we have no idea when our money has stopped benefiting a charity. Businesses want to keep it that way.

A huge problem with cause marketing is that it’s next to impossible to figure out what the company’s cap is. Let’s be generous, and say that a company’s donation will be $250,000; that sounds like a lot of money for charity, right? Not if you take into account that they’ve made millions off that pink ribbon. In addition to looking good by donating, that donation is also a tax write off. Sounds to me like a win-win proposition - for businesses. Millions of dollars made, all under the guise of philanthropy. You can read a more in-depth accounting of cause marketing in the article, “Breast Cancer for Fun and Profit.”

If the goal is truly to help, eliminate the cap. Or, at the very least, be up front about what your limit is.

I’m sure there are some companies that don’t have that limit. I’ve tried to find them, but it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. I found one, though (and if you know of another, PLEASE post it in the comments – we need to support them). Elaine Lutz of 5 Hour Energy told me that for every bottle of their pink lemonade sold, they’ll donate 5 cents to Avon’s foundation for breast cancer. They have a minimum donation of $75,000, with no cap.

I have to add that I’m not making any claims for the product; I’m just pointing out that they are putting their money where their mouth is.

To make matters worse, there’s nothing regulating how the pink ribbon is being used; any company can slap a pink ribbon on a product. Unless they specifically say which organization proceeds will go to, there’s a darn good chance they’re not going anywhere but to the company’s bottom line.

For example, the other day, I went to my grocery store. In the window were large photos of white cakes and cupcakes, all decorated with the pink ribbon. Underneath were words like, “hope” and “courage.” I looked closely, and saw no fine print or anything that would tell me if any of the proceeds are going to a charity. I asked the bakery assistant if there was a price, or special coding that would mark the pink ribbon adorned confections as different from any of the other cakes. She didn’t think so. To the best of my investigation, not one cent went to any charity or organization; well, except for the grocer.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m convinced that I directly benefited from the pink ribbon campaign. Years ago, the words “breast cancer” weren’t spoken – they were whispered. The campaign brought the disease out of the shadows and made it okay to talk about. However, as you can see, too often good things go bad and people figure out a way to make money off the suffering of others.

Next week, Lucy will talk about cancer charities; you may think you know who to donate to. You might be surprised which charities are given what ratings. You can also find out how she, and many other survivors/patients feel about "save the boobies" campaigns. In the meantime, you can follow Lucy on her Facebook page, as well as her blog.

Tamara Kells October 29, 2012 at 04:01 AM
fdsa - I'm not sure what you think you're accomplishing by posting this crap. I, for one, am amazed that you've used such a sensitive subject - breast cancer - to troll for your wares. Not sure how you sleep at night. But I can pretty much guarantee you that not one person has visited your website from this. You may think you've found a free advertising source, but you've actually just guaranteed that no one will even look twice at your website. You're despicable.
Sarah Larson October 29, 2012 at 04:40 AM
Tamara, if I remember correctly, the techies at Patch have traced this to a bot operating out of China - so I doubt there's even a human being there to absorb your wrath. We delete them as fast as we see them, but man, those bots are fast! I'm with you - I have no idea if they're accomplishing much other than wasting their time.
Ralph Lydick November 02, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Eye opening for many. Except maybe the businesses that are not playing above board. It is ashame some feel the need to prey on and take advantage of others for the sake of a bigger profit.

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