Problematic Pink During Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

11/07/2013 19:23 | Updated 22 May 2015

breast cancer awareness

In an incredibly successful spot of charity-based branding, October has become Breast Cancer Awareness month. For us this means pink press releases as far as the eye can see and for you it means pink products as far as the shelves can stretch.

Unfortunately, an email exchange with a PR company representing one of the biggest beauty brands in the UK has highlighted the fact that not everyone will be using this retail pinkwash for its intended purpose - that of raising funds and awareness.

The exchange began simply enough - here's the opening from the email:

"Hope you're well. As you know, this October is Breast Cancer Awareness month which is the perfect excuse to embrace all things pink! So embrace the trend with [limited edition product]."

We responded asking for information on the product's links to Breast Cancer Awareness (we do this as a matter of course to find out things like the amount of money from each sale that reaches the charity). This was the response:

"There is no direct link between the product and Breast Cancer Awareness month, however I know that many outlets are putting together pink themed features for which I'm sure you'll agree this product is very suitable!"

Looking back at the original email the wording doesn't actually state the association but we feel that mentioning the two things - the product and the charity - in such close proximity and at the opening of the email is calculated and cynical.

Think we're being too harsh?

Okay, well look at it from the other point of view. That the PR company or the beauty brand are of the opinion that all this blush-coloured business happens in October because we are simply bowled over by the proliferation of pink things in our peripheral vision.

In fact, that's pretty much what the company said when we responded to ask "WTF?"

"Pink is the on trend colour for October due to the BCC awareness." They then added: "our motivation was not to mislead in anyway, just responding to wider media demand for pink products."

Here's the deal:

The point of the pink-themed month is the link with Breast Cancer Awareness. The galleries being compiled aren't to showcase how pretty pink things can be, they're there to highlight products which exist to benefit a particular charity (however cynical the motivation*, bandwagon-jumpy the product branding*, or appallingly tiny the actual donation*).

Bottom line? Breast Cancer Awareness is a great cause but because it represents a number of different breast cancer charities it can be a little confusing branding-wise. If you're ever in any doubt over where the proceeds from your purchase might be going, you can ALWAYS make a donation to the charity directly.

*These would be the fuel for a completely different rant

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