Friday, September 10, 2010

Pink fatigue

Does it actually work? Painting things pink and selling them to raise money for breast cancer research, I mean. Because I have to tell you I never, and I mean never, buy them. I would much rather send money straight to cancer research (and I do) than bring those Pepto Bismal-coloured products into my house.

What is the rationale behind them? Does the presence of a pink hair dryer in my bathroom communicate to my friends that they should also be donating money to the cause? Does my wearing a pink ribbon festooned scarf get the word out to people I pass on the street? Or maybe a pink swarovzki bedazzled charm hanging from my wrist is a subtle way to raise awareness while I am picking my kids up from school?

There is already a huge backlash out there - people who think that breast cancer gets too much attention, at a cost to other diseases and conditions. And there are others who think that way too much attention is being focused on treatment rather than prevention. Now I hear people in stores saying that these pink products are just one more marketing tool, that Madison Avenue is using this disease to sell everything from cosmetics to kitchen appliances. Is this pink campaign eating up even more good will?

Perhaps it's just me. But I would love to support cancer research every time I buy green tea, every time I buy olive oil, calcium supplements, walking shoes or yoga mats (in green, blue or raspberry!). I want to make my choice based on the quality of the product I am buying, and how it helps me live a healthier life - not on the colour of its packaging. And when I do support products that pass along a portion of profits to research, I want to know exactly how big a portion that is. Beyond that I will continue to send donations directly to organizations engaged in cancer-related research, as well as a host of other diseases.

All I know is it's only September and I'm already bracing myself for the pink fiesta that is October`s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


  1. Does the pink campaign keep breast cancer at the forefront of people's awareness or is it ONLY causing people to doubt the sincerity of the of the campaign?

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  3. Oops. Content restored below.

    I think it does both.

    Some people find it very comforting. "If I buy this pink sports bra I get a sports bra AND do something to help end breast cancer." And others like seeing all the pink in October because of the sense that this month we are all going to rally together and make a difference.

    But I can never figure out how much of the proceeds from sales of pink items are actually getting into the hands of researchers. And I find myself doubting the sincerity of the companies that make these pink versions of their goods. What part do they play in the branding of their company? Do these products improve their sales? Improve their "brand value" in the eyes of consumers?

    And I am more moved by the rallying together I see at fund raising runs, well researched news and magazine articles, and organized events within the community. Events where sharing information and passion are the focus, not shopping.

    I choose instead to direct my monies quickly and, hopefully, efficiently into the hands of researchers through organizations like the Terry Fox Foundation and StandUp2Cancer. If anyone missed it on Friday night - it was a very moving hour. Donations can still be made via the website at These groups target all cancers, but there are also some good ones that focus just on the breast.