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The voice of the brand strategy consultancy, The Portnoy Group Inc.

The Brand Man Speaks is a dialogue about the consuming world in which we live and a guide to successfully navigating it. The goal is to educate people and companies about branding, the most powerful yet misunderstood business tool.

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Cause Marketing: October was "pink" breast cancer month. Is it authentic?-by Eli

October completed the 23rd year of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in which consumer product and service companies have turned "pink" to raise money and awareness for this cause.

More and more companies have gotten on the "cause marketing" bandwagon to enhance the image of their brands among key targets and to stimulate more sales and loyalty. However, does anyone really know if it is effective and who's giving and how much?

These questions were posed by the LA times today in a very enlightening article. (LA Times)

Products including yogurt, hairbrushes, crackers, cosmetics and automobiles participate in one way or another by making products pink, using pink packaging, pink ribbons or just state that a purchase during October will contribute money towards the Breast Cancer Research effort.

I believe the "pink" breast cancer marketing campaign is likely the most successful cause marketing effort ever launched and one of the longest lasting.

The question is how much is being raised and how authentic is the cause marketing program being espoused by each brand that participates?

No actual summary numbers exist to measure the monies raised although many individual breast cancer groups do publish their contribution dollars. For example, The Susan G. Komen Foundation, one of the most well-known of the breast cancer charities (frequently tied to BMW for their "drive" program for a cure) brought in $58 Million last year from "pink" marketing campaigns. This represented 20% of all their revenue.

Consumer companies such as Dyson and Target donate $40 from each vacuum sold during the month. Conair Hairdryers donate between 50 cents and $1 per dryer sold. $10 from the sale of each Sony portable DVD player goes to Breast Cancer Research.

Although the reputable funding groups say they are very careful with whom they partner, there isn't a lot of regulation. Any group can take a logo off a charity website and post it on their own and on their marketing brochures without being checked. Further participant companies can contribute as much or as little as they wish and claim to be a part of the effort. A few states are now requiring full-disclosure by participating companies if they tie to such a charity for marketing purposes. Experts say consumers don't have easy pathways to really know what's what and whom to trust and should contact their Attorney General's office for facts.

I would like to see the consumer product companies do a better job of explaining their participation and contributions and how they tie back to their brands. If they cannot do this successfully, then the linkage is not authentic and will ultimately undermine consumer perception of those brands.

Finally, one industry expert feels that too much attention is being paid to breast cancer by consumer companies and not enough to other cancers that also need support but may not be as sexy and emotionally attractive to consumers.

What do you think?

Watching out for you everyday.



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