Pinkwashing a big business for marketers

Marketers walk the line between raising breast cancer awareness and objectifying women.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month an opportunity to raise funds, sell products

Breast Cancer Awareness Month also offers marketers the opportunity to raise awareness of their products. (Getty Images/Flickr RF)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and marketers will soon be pushing pink-hued products in an effort to raise funds and sell products. 

The pink ribbon for breast cancer was originated in 1991 by the Susan G. Komen Foundation in New York City. Since then, everything to do with breast cancer is coloured pink, including Breast Cancer Awareness Month itself, which was rechristened "Pinktober" by Hard Rock Hotels.

Countless brands partner with breast cancer charities to raise funds and awareness, but you wonder whether some sponsoring products are doing more harm than good. For example, fast foods contribute to obesity, thereby increasing the risk of breast cancer, which calls into question this sponsorship choice.

Another dubious fundraiser is the U.S. website which in 2012, announced it would donate one cent to the Komen Foundation for every 30 views of breast-related videos.

sexualization of breast cancer isn't unusual or limited to the U.S. This ad for a Rethink Breast Cancer fundraiser that runs in Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg features a skimpy bikini and type that says, "You know you like them. Now it's time to save the boobs."

Or there's this ad for the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, featuring a smirking teenage boy and his buddies.

Such ads are offensive to many breast cancer survivors since they emphasize saving breasts rather than saving women. That message even seeps into to a smartphone app from Rethink Breast Cancer. 

In their eagerness to raise awareness of breast cancer and generate goodwill for their brand, some marketers pinkwash products and events without stopping to think whether they're actually causing more pain to breast cancer survivors and further objectifying women.