Beware of Pinktober

Yes, I’m annoyed.

It’s now October. How do I know? It’s not because football season is in full swing, or because the leaves are turning or the mornings are chilly – it’s because everywhere I look, everything is pink.

Blenders, mixers and vacuums.  Nascars, NFL jerseys and yogurt. Anything you can think of has turned pink this month – not so much for breast cancer, but to sell more stuff.

You’ve likely heard of ‘green-washing’ – the idea that companies exaggerate their environmental awareness while killing the planet with their products behind the scenes.  “Pink-washing” is the same concept. It’s cause marketing gone awry when Komen gets 10 cents for every Yoplait lid I send in.  I might as well not buy the 89 cent yogurt, not waste a 44 cent stamp and instead make a gift of $1.33 online.

Worse yet, in the grocery store today there were aisles and aisles of pink products that have no donation (yours or theirs) involved in the relationship at all. The packaging is simply for sales…*cough*, I mean ‘awareness’.

Every jersey, helmet, shoe, field, football, hat, jacket and scoreboard around the NFL was pink today and yes, I spent much of the day in front of (or near) the TV. The only time that words ‘breast cancer’ were muttered was in ads telling me I could get all the pink merchandise I wanted on NFLshop.com. I was happy to later find that nfl.com/pink encourages women over 40 to get an annual mammogram (An action secondary to ‘Bid Now on Pink Items’). I am, however, surprised that in the 8 hours of football coverage, not once was it mentioned.

Maybe I’m bitter that this cause is getting more attention than mine. Maybe I’m tired of people exploiting the ‘good’ to make a profit. Maybe I’m frustrated that people’s definition of activism is buying a pink walker from Target.

All I’m asking is that you Think Before You Pink and do your homework as most of this awareness is a smoke-screen for selling more stuff and most purchases do not include a gift to any cause or organization.  If you really want to support efforts to end breast cancer, here are the direct donation pages for the American Cancer Society, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. I bet if you donate enough, they’ll even send you a pink ribbon.

7 thoughts on “Beware of Pinktober

  1. Love this…. My husband and I were thinking the other day if the NFL will really break even on the pink auction items… I mean, when you think about the marketing, distribution, etc. THINK BEFORE YOU PINK! Brilliant!

  2. Great blog post! I have nothing against breast cancer awareness, in fact I am a supporter but in the last couple years I feel like pink is everywhere and like you say, it’s become a marketing blitz. I’d rather write my check directly to Susan G. Plus, there are SO many great causes out there that don’t get the attention they deserve!

  3. I’d have to add that based on information I recently found (researching how to get at least 1/10 of that level of awareness for the 12 major types of pediatric cancer) that the American Cancer Society has an overwhelming amount of “overhead” – those “free” t-shirts from the walks? Not so free. ACS’s fundraising costs are 22% of their budget, and management costs are another 6%. That’s a full 10% above comparable costs for SGK. (Source : http://curechildhoodcancer.ning.com/forum/topics/so-where-does-the-money-go) If I’m donating, it’s going directly into research and patient support. http://www.CharityNavigator.org can give you a pretty good overview of how a charity uses it’s funding.

  4. Megan – thanks for your thoughts and information – great sources. I’m generally hesitant to use fundraising/admin costs and ratios as a sole factor in ‘good v. bad’ nonprofit discussions as start ups and growing organizations need to invest in infrastructure first and may have a high ratio until they realize the fruits of their investment – but yes, 10% is a significant difference. Hmm – wonder where it’s safe to draw the line on investing in marketing to make/raise more funds to make a difference? (sounds like a new blog post :))

  5. Oh, I concur – start-ups and growing organizations certainly will have a higher general overhead. However, I can in no way consider the ACS either of those, especially when compared to SGK or an organization like Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. (ACS was founded in 1913, SGK in 1982, ALSF was “born” in 2000 and has an overhead of 14.4%.)
    We simply have to decide what we want our funds used for. When I’m giving money in regards to cancer (and my focus is on pediatric cancers) I want to know it’s being put to good use – supporting those in the fight, and researching better treatment options. It’s not about the t-shirt for me, it’s about actually making a difference!

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