There’s More to ‘Pinktober’ Than Just Marketing

In the coming weeks, the color pink will wash over everything from clothing and food packaging to some of the gear worn by professional athletes in leagues such as the NFL. The movement – embraced by retailers as well as foundations dedicated to raising funds for cancer awareness – is part of the annual National Breast Cancer Awareness Month program and the importance of the observance to moms and all women cannot be understated.

Those with a more cynical outlook, however, may view “Pinktober” as more of a marketing tool than an awareness campaign. From NASCAR drivers speeding around the track in pink cars to major coffee chains decorating cups in pink, the color and traditional pink ribbon design will be everywhere, as marketers do their best to make sure companies don’t miss out on the opportunity to show their support for the cause. And while it’s easy to look around skeptically as pink continues to pop up everywhere, it’s important to recognize the fact that behind the marketing is an initiative that was designed to raise awareness and save lives.

Here’s a little background: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month started as a weeklong campaign in 1985 with only two founding members — the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries, maker of several anti-breast cancer drugs. Today, the American Cancer Society joins several other organizations as part of the NBCAM Board of Sponsors. Throughout the month, the members work together to spread the message that early detection of breast cancer along with beginning treatment promptly can help save lives. Sure, some of those efforts to spread the word may include tactics that help draw attention to brands and products, but when you consider the facts about the deadly disease, the marketing campaigns seem justified.

Let’s look at some of the numbers: According to the American Cancer Society, about 232,340 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2013. Even more disturbing, the ACS reports that about 39,620 women will die from breast cancer.

“Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer,” according to the ACS. “The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (about 3%). Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1989, with larger decreases in women younger than 50. These decreases are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment.”
On a more positive note, there are 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, including those who are still undergoing treatment. These are real people, coping with a horrifying disease. They are the reason why we embrace this initiative every year.