Has breast cancer awareness marketing gone too far?

Pinkwashing and edgy marketing campaigns raise concerns

October is breast cancer awareness month, and already we’re hearing about some cause marketing campaigns that are raising questions based on the product partnerships, a practice that is being labeled as “pinkwashing”.

Buckets for the Cure?

Earlier this year there was an uproar over Susan G Komen’s partnership with Kentucky Fried Chicken, who were selling pink buckets of chicken to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. The issue raised by the breast cancer survivor community was the fact that a diet high in fatty foods has been linked to an increased risk for breast cancer.

The increased health risk link has also been made with alcohol, and a recent article in USA Today highlights a handful of alcoholic beverages that are encouraging consumers to buy their products as a way to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research.

Other products that are raising concerns are skin care and beauty products for women that contain chemicals and other toxins that are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

But where do you draw the line? For example, BMW was donating $1 for every test drive to a breast cancer awareness group, yet some argue that the pollutants that come from car exhaust also contributes to an increased risk of cancer.

The non-profit Breast Cancer Action has recently launched a new blog called Think Before You Pink that is calling attention to products and campaigns that they believe are inappropriate. If you’re concerned about where your money goes, they have a list of 5 questions to think about before you buy pink.

In addition to product marketing, we’re seeing awareness campaigns use edgier language that rubs some people the wrong way. A recent article on MSNBC notes that schools from California to Florida have banned students from wearing bracelets with the message “I (heart) boobies” as they feel the language is inappropriate. The non-profit behind the campaign, Keep a Breast Foundation, has sold 2 million of the bracelets, and says that the slogan is reaching kids who would never wear a pink ribbon.

What do you think? Should breast cancer non-profits and awareness groups be more selective about which brands they partner with? Or the more attention and money raised for the cause the better?

Are there other campaigns that you’ve seen that use language that you think is inappropriate? Leave your thoughts in comments.

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