Is Pink Bad for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

October marks the beginning of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This annual event aims to generate awareness for breast cancer and raise money for finding a cure.

This event also is pretty hard to miss. Why? Because it is bright pink. Pink pins are on every lapel. Walk into almost any store in this month and you’ll see pink merchandise that encourages customers to “shop their way to a cure.” A small sample of these products include t-shirtsstaplersKitchenAid mixers, and even aSnuggie. A percentage of the proceeds made from these purchases go back to breast-cancer foundations to fund research.

This is perhaps one of the most effective social marketing campaigns in recent history. According to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 84% buy pink, breast-cancer tie-in products. Seventy percent have donated money, and 46% have participated in fundraising events. But is it possible that all this pink is doing more harm than good?

According to this same USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, one in three say the intense focus on breast cancer overshadows other worthy causes. Many have accused companies of “pink washing” when there is little correlation between the cause and the products themselves.

But perhaps the most troubling findings on the effects of all this pink come from Professor Stefano Puntoni of the Rotterdam School of Management. According to Puntoni’s research, seeing the color pink actually makes women less likely to think they’ll get breast cancer and less likely to donate to cancer research. Why? Because this color — associated with gender — triggers strong denial mechanisms.

For this reason, I think that the time has come for pink. Though the association is still strong, it is beginning to lose its meaning and therefore some of its impact. If the goal is to get people to take breast cancer seriously, now is the perfect moment for shift in campaign strategy.

But what do you think? Is all this pink a way to support of worthy cause or, as one breast cancer survivor puts it, has it “become more like background noise than the original cry for help?”

This post was originally appeared on Beneath the Brand.

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