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Obama, Ocho and Otis

What could they possibly have in common?

The PINKing of October

Pink ImagesIn the month of October, 2010, President Barak Obama hung a large pink ribbon on the White House (Oct 14), Ocho Cinco (Bengal’s Chad Johnson) wore pink gloves & shoes for October’s NFL games and Otis Spunkmeyer Cookies were made with pink chocolate chips.  That’s just in the USA.  Pink “global illuminations”  occurred in Tokyo, Paris, Munich, Sydney, Rome, Tel Aviv, Seoul and Amsterdam all in the name of breast cancer awareness month.

Which led me to think “Does anyone NOT know that October was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM)?”  How did this huge cause-marketing campaign get started?

Brief History of NBCAM

1983 – National Race for the Cure held for first time in Dallas with 800 participants.

1985 – AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company that manufactures breast cancer drugs founded NBCAM with the aim of promoting mammography as the most effective weapon to fight breast cancer.

1991 – Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons to participants in its NYC race for breast cancer survivors.

1992 – Self Magazine and Estee Lauder worked together to create the pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness and distribute them through Estee Lauder’s retail locations.

1996 – A breast cancer awareness US stamp was authorized.   1999 – NFL airs six spots featuring players to raise awareness of breast cancer. Marks the beginning of a long supportive relationship.

2000 – Namco (Japanese video game producer) was paid to put a pink ribbon on Ms. Pac-Man.

2002 – National Race for the Cure held in over 100 US cities with more than 1.3 million participants.

2005 – The Royal Canadian Mint produced 15,000 silver breast cancer commemorative coins.

2006-10 – Thousands of “pink” related products hit the market (Panera bagels, Staples pens, Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, shirts, hats, mugs, etc).

2010 – On October 10, all Kings Features Syndicate comic strips were printed in shades of red and pink.

2010 – I attended a high school varsity football game where one of the teams wore pink wrist bands in support of BCAM.

Analysis of Growth

  • Starts with an idea (Race for the Cure / AstraZeneca / Komen)
  • Requires partners to expand and invest (Self Magazine / Estee Lauder)
  • Grass roots supported events increase in participation (Race for the Cure growth / Pink Ribbon wearing grows in popularity)
  • Outside entity legitimizes the effort (US Postal Service / White House / Global illuminations)
  • Corporations support effort for positive public relations (NFL / Kings Features)
  • Corporations recognize that pink themed products will raise money for the cause and enhance overall revenue opportunities (products flood market)
  • Grass root efforts begin to mirror corporations (high school football teams emulate NFL sponsorship)

Nuggets To Consider

Even good ideas take time to catch on.  It’s been 25 years since the establishment of NBCAM.

This cause just didn’t happen.  It was the coordinated and intentional efforts of several major players (for-profit and non-profit).

Own your color. Pink use to be the color of Barbie, but now it is owned (at least in October) by BCAM.

Be everywhere at the same time.  As quick as pink appeared in October, it is now gone.  A concentrated promotional effort for a defined period garners significant awareness building.

Expect a backlash – Through the years of growth, questions have been raised by various groups about the effectiveness of BCAM and if it has become more of a commercial entity rather than a cause.  Any effort that grows to this level of awareness will always have questions about its purpose, ethics or practices.  Whether truthful or not, it is unavoidable.

A Word about Cancer
I am personally sensitive to the topic of cancer.  My father died from two cancers.  My sister-in-law is a cancer survivor.  The content of this Hot Marketing Tip is simply about the business of marketing and not meant to be a critique of how funds are advocated for.

Bonus Tip (Not Marketing Related but still a hot one!)
I would encourage you to conduct these simple but effective cancer screens:
For Women:  Breast self exam monthly.  Here’s how.
For Men:  Testicular self exam monthly.  Here’s how to do it.

Eat dark green leafy vegetables (just like your mother told you to), eat whole grains and let’s all stay healthy and profitable.

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