The Pinking of America

Pink. A color long associated with little girls and Disney princesses, pink is poised to dominate our landscape this month. You'll see the color everywhere – from the cleats and jerseys of professional athletes and the neckties and crisply-ironed shirts of businessmen, to the color of your daily newspaper and even lighting up well-known landmarks.

Photo of Terrie Ard

Terrie Ard

Chief Operating Officer and President

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and pink will be everywhere.

But, how did such an ostracized color (a study in the Harvard Business Review found that pink initiates a “defensive response” in women) become the color that represents our nation for a full month out of the year? The answer is simple, really: branding.

For decades, breast cancer was a stigmatized disease – one that people were unlikely to talk about. That began to change in the early 1990’s, when Self Magazine festooned their breast cancer awareness issue with a pink ribbon. Widespread use of the ribbon by cosmetics giants Estee Laude and Avon increased the reach.

Today, breast cancer pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars annually – $257.85 million in 2011, to be exact. More people donate to breast cancer organizations than any other disease-related non-profits.

I’ve written about the importance of a corporate social responsibility campaign for businesses. The fact is, people want to patronize companies that do good – 88 percent of consumers think companies should try to achieve their business goals while improving society and the environment. When it comes to breast cancer, Americans spend millions of dollars annually on products turned pink or emblazoned with the pink ribbon. A strong corporate social responsibility program is a cornerstone of a great brand.

All organizations – from Fortune 500 companies to small, local non-profit organizations, benefit from a strong brand that reflects their goals and services. A great brand is powerful, and at the core of any great brand is the “why” – the emotional belief, the cause, the purpose. Great brands align strongly with the mission of the company. Organizations that are raising awareness and dollars for breast cancer are a tremendous example of this.