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October 30, 2006

Buying “Pink”: A Lure for Breast Cancer*

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:23 am

pink products October is breast cancer awareness month and many companies use this opportunity to contribute to the cause and to educate their customers about breast cancer prevention.

Some companies also try to cash in, and generously put, they seek to do well by doing good. They place pink ribbons on their products and in their ads to give well-meaning consumers an added incentive to buy their products. This is called “cause marketing.”

Those who track these promotions say that consumers should “Think Before You Pink“.

*MOUSE PRINT: Don’t assume that the mere purchase of the product will result in a substantial contribution to breast cancer causes, or any contribution at all. You have to read the details.

Eureka once put a sticker on their LiteSpeed vacuums proclaiming that they “will make a contribution to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation with every LiteSpeed sold.*”   According to Breast Cancer Action, their actual donation was only $1 per vacuum, and those models could sell for upwards of $200.

Sun Chips snacks sport the pink ribbon, but require you to visit their website and enter a special code from the package in order to trigger the company’s donation. Many people might just see the breast cancer information on the package and assume that a donation is triggered by the mere purchase of the item.

Viva towels requires you to redeem a particular coupon for an additional donation to be made.

Campbell’s has put the pink ribbon on two of their soups in Kroger stores, and the cans are flying off the shelf, doubling in sales. The donation: about 3.5 cents per can. (All told, on sales of seven million cans, Campbell’s will donate $250,000.)  Certainly that is a substantial sum, but still only a few pennies per can.

Mouse Print* is not suggesting that you shouldn’t buy these products, nor that companies should stop making such contributions. Rather, just be aware that less than you think may actually be going to the cause, and you may have to do more than just buy the product to trigger the contribution.

For more information, read this Wall Street Journal article . And to help you “think before you pink”, here are some questions to ask before you buy.




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15 Comments

  1. I\’ve actually see SunChips pass out free chips at the DC Susie Komen walking event.

    Some companies may do more sponsoring than the pennies per sold item. I assume that the charities are at the table in the negociations on what brand gets to \’wear\’ their logo. You can also look at it as a \’cheap\’ form of advertising. In fact, the charities get \’ad space\’ and are being paid for it. Now, try and pull that off!

    [BTW the comment box behaves weird in my IE, the typing lines don\’t get truncated on the right side and dissappear]

     EDGAR RESPONDS: This is corrected in the new IE7… IE6 still has the problem.

    Comment by Jasper — October 30, 2006 @ 9:58 am
  2. I remind people frequently that if they really want to give to a cause, just send some cash rather than spending it on a product that claims it will make a tiny little donation for your purchase.
    Don’t support product manufacturers….support the cause directly.

    Comment by Phil Adendron — October 30, 2006 @ 10:00 am
  3. First link has been corrected.

    Comment by Edgar — October 30, 2006 @ 10:16 am
  4. Regardless of the exact amount per item that is being donated, isn’t it better for the charities to receive SOME donation rather than none at all? If Campbell’s makes $1m from the soup sales, isn’t it better that $250k goes to charity rather than Campbell’s corporate coffers?

    Comment by Snarky — October 30, 2006 @ 1:10 pm
  5. […] October, though it is almost over, is Breast CancerAwareness Month. So for the past month there have been a plethora of products with pink ribbons or products that are not normally pink, turned pink (a pink vacuum, pink tennis balls, etc.). Mouse Print has a warning about how some of the breast cancer funds are distributed/what exactly each company is giving to research. This bothers me that these multi-million dollar companies are pitching merely pennies per product. I think for a month they can afford to give a little more, or maybe match the amount that their products have sold – eg if Campbell’s products “earn” $250,000 this month they Campbell’s as a corporation will match that, raising their donation to $500,000. This is a month long campaign to raise funds to find a cure. And why limit it to this month?  Why not donate to breast cancer research all year?  Or any cause for that matter. […]

    Pingback by the fine art of me » Blog Archive » Think Pink — October 30, 2006 @ 1:42 pm
  6. why not take the money it is costing these companies to make special pink products and donate that money to the cause.

    Comment by sean — October 30, 2006 @ 6:21 pm
  7. What sort of profit margin does Campbell’s have on a single can of soup, anyway? They sell the stuff so cheaply that I can easily believe 3.5 cents to be a substantial per-can donation.

    While I certainly agree the Campbell’s company COULD do more, do we really want to gripe and risk them deciding to do less? Remember, this is first and foremost a marketing venture for them. Convincing people NOT to buy their specially-marked products would just result in them not bothering at all next year.

    Comment by Jason — October 30, 2006 @ 6:45 pm
  8. I’d like to mention Apple’s red ipod, where 5% is given to an aids foundation.

    at least they’re very up-front about exactly how much will be donated, and $10 on a $200 iPod sounds much more substantial now in comparison.

    My girlfriend just read to me that she would have to mail in a lid from her yogurt for the donation to be made. (of 10 cents, while the stamp is costing us $0.39)

    lovely

    Comment by Jeff — October 31, 2006 @ 1:32 am
  9. In regards to comparing iPods with Campbells soup, I think you need to consider profit margin. While I do not know the profit margins for either, I would venture to say that Campbells at 3.5 cents per can is actually donating a larger percentae of their profits.

    The charitable efforts of both should be commended as the alternative is for them to just pocket their profits. However, I’m not a fan of any company utilizing a charitable fundraising drive to improve overall sales of its products. So my solution is to cut out the middle man, donate money directly to charities of my choice.

    Bottom line, don’t let a silly pink label influence your purchasing decissions. Donate directly to charities you see fit. When companies see that pink labels are not helping their bottom line, they will quickly disappear . . . probably to be replaced by something even more absurd.

    Comment by Shawn — October 31, 2006 @ 10:14 am
  10. The sadest part is that most of these “donations” go to the drug manufacturers, who already earn billions,
    for “research”.

    More: http://www.newstarget.com/020654.html

    Comment by My ass is pink — October 31, 2006 @ 6:37 pm
  11. I think it’s also important for people to remember that all those ever-popular ribbon magnets aren’t necessarily made by/for the causes they support. Be sure to check the packaging and/or ask the store clerk about the specifics. If you’re not sure, you can always get on the internet and find a site selling them that is clearly sponsored or created by the charity/cause.

    Comment by InfamousQBert — November 3, 2006 @ 7:17 pm
  12. Who said Campbell’s soup was cheap. A dollar for 8 ounces of colored salt water is not cheap!
    Send you money directly to the Breast Cancer foundation. Campbell’s insults me with thier cheap a^^
    ways!

    Comment by Ray — November 13, 2006 @ 1:38 pm
  13. Instead of buying everything with pink ribbons on it, how about buying the less expensive brand (if you like the taste as much or better.) Then take the $10 you save on that visit to the store and send it in directly.

    It’s great that companies are donating some of their profits but if they wanted to really impress me instead of just increasing sales they should flat out donate the 1/4 or 1/5 million $ and let people know it.

    Comment by Cory — November 16, 2006 @ 9:33 am
  14. Penn & Teller’s show “Bull****” exposes this common misleading trend. People THINK buying awareness products donates to causes or charity, MOST DON’T. But more importantly , SO WHAT if they do? Funding a promotion of awareness or funding research will NOT cure breast cancer. (So don’t waste a nice weekend on a walk)

    Comment by Josh — August 12, 2007 @ 5:19 pm
  15. Imagine if instead of spending all the time on a walk, people asked their friends to donate – JUST BECAUSE – and spent the day arranging for a mobile mammogram unit to come to their place of work or a local shopping center to offer screenings, called their members of Congress and asked why in our wealthy nation poor women are more likely to die of breast cancer because they don’t get good preventive care or screening, etc., etc… It’s nice that people want to help, but I think these marketing blitzes channel that desire into something less effective than doing something more direct.

    I’d be more impressed if a company just put a web site where you could donate to the cause directly on their packaging.

    The Yoplait and Sun Chips examples are horrifying.

    Comment by John — September 29, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

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