Jennifer Valdes|Oct 13, 2010

Unless you live under a rock, by now you know that every October is designated as Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) month, and everyone wants to jump on the pink bandwagon.

With breast cancer becoming increasingly common among Americans and affecting so many lives, companies and organizations fervently turn pink during the month of October as a sign of support and to raise awareness. And, I admit, they get me every time. (Well, most of them.) As a daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I am the first to donate and register for a BCA race, attend a BCA fundraiser event or make a purchase that will increase funding for BCA-specific efforts. There are only a few instances when I may raise an eyebrow and think twice before making a donation or purchase. I’ll explain later.

Consumers Choose Causes over Brands

Cause marketing campaigns are increasingly top of mind for many businesses, and rightly so. According to the 2019 Cone Cause Evolution Study, consumers (especially mothers and millennials) prefer brands associated with causes. Here are some interesting findings from the study:

  • 85% of consumers have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about
  • 80% of consumers are likely to switch brands, similar in price and quality, to one that supports a cause

The study reveals that consumers are even willing to try a new or unfamiliar brand (61%) and a generic or private-label brand (46%). In addition, nearly one in five consumers is willing to purchase a more expensive brand if it supports a cause.

Many cause marketing campaigns have the simple call to action of: donate because it’s for a good cause or it’s the right thing to do. But, really, is that what you want to hear as a consumer? Instead, consumers want to know why they should support the cause and how their help will make a difference. The most successful and popular causes are those that resonate most with consumers.

Benefits of Cause Marketing

Collaborative efforts between companies and causes can be both challenging and rewarding. When cause marketing matches a company’s culture and brand, the morale of consumers, employees and communities improves.

So, an increase in sales and supporting a good cause – an ideal combination, right? Most will suggest a cause marketing campaign is a win-win situation for all parties involved. However, I’d caution that if cause marketing campaigns are poorly executed, companies run the risk of threatening and undermining their brand, image and reputation.

Before initiating a cause marketing campaign, companies must consider the following:

  1. What cause or issue is best for your company to support? Choose a cause that fits best with your company’s culture, products or services, and location. Make sure that the cause or issue you choose to support aligns with your company’s vision and mission. Companies will have a greater impact when it supports a business-aligned issue.
  2. Do you care about the cause or issue? Don’t be fake or a hypocrite. If you don’t care, your consumers will see right through you, and they won’t care. Make sure your employees are supportive and passionate about the cause or issue. Remember, employees are a company’s ambassadors. In fact, the Cone study I mentioned earlier demonstrated that a company’s support of particular causes or issues is an influential factor on where many choose to work (87%) and invest (79%).
  3. Are you dedicated to the cause or issue? Cause marketing campaigns require a long-term commitment that may not result in quick sales for your company. The hit-and-run approach may lead to immediate sales, but it will barely dent the bottom line and do nothing for long-term loyalty or brand equity. Companies need to make an authentic commitment to a focused cause so consumers make the connection and stand behind the company.

I’d like to share two examples of recent cause marketing campaigns. One is a cause marketing ‘do’ (and a rbb client); the other is an ‘don’t,’ which definitely made me raise my eyebrow.

Example #1 – DO

This year, the fun and effective workout program Zumba launched Party in Pink Zumbathons to raise awareness and money for breast cancer causes. For Party in Pink, more than 600 events in October are scheduled across the U.S. Since its launch, through the Zumbathon events plus the sale of limited-edition Party in Pink Zumbawear™, Zumba Fitness has already raised more than $60,000 toward the fight against breast cancer. An additional 75% from Zumbathon tickets in October will also go to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Zumba Fitness decided to partner with Susan G. Komen for the Cure because Zumba classes have helped hundreds of women in their battle with breast cancer to reduce fatigue and depression and increase strength and mobility.

Example #2 – DON’T

In honor of breast cancer awareness, several alcohol companies are promoting pink wines and pink vodkas with special pink labeling and bottles. Their websites even provide recipes for pink cocktails, encouraging website visitors and Facebook fans to drink pink.

Despite the fact that several studies have proven that even moderate drinking increases breast cancer risk, these companies have donated several hundreds of thousands of dollars towards breast cancer causes. In one case, the company’s donation to Breast Cancer Research Foundation is not directly tied to sales of their pink alcoholic beverage. Predictably,  The Breast Cancer Research Foundation has publicly said that it does not endorse the consumption of alcohol.


So, while raising awareness is a noble feat, it is only the beginning. Genuine cause marketing campaign must be done tastefully and tactfully. The alcohol companies may have had good intentions but are arguably guilty of contributing to the “pinkwashing” phenomenon and risking their brand and reputation because of it.


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