Raising Awareness

Written by Pierce Csurgo on October 28, 2015

While October overflows with ambers, fierce reds and honeyed yellows from fading tree leaves, a hopeful pink stands as the dominant color of the month. It is the month for breast cancer awareness. Rosy ribbons are proudly worn on the chests of both women and men purchased from local grocery stores and shopping centers. The now ubiquitous band has come to symbolize the importance of breast cancer awareness, along with education and research on the disease. Pink fever has grown through multi-national businesses, professional sports players and even international landmarks that participate in the month-long health campaign. So why has a tiny pink ribbon become a huge marketing success?

The Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) was founded in 1985 to promote mammography as the most effective way to fight breast cancer. Alexandra Penney, then editor-in-chief of the women’s health magazine Self, and Evelyn Lauder, a Vice President of Estee Lauder Companies and breast cancer survivor, founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 1993. They co-opted the pink ribbon as the foundations logo. Estee Lauder distributed ribbons throughout stores across New York City, cementing its symbol as a support of breast cancer awareness. It has become an international affair, with far reaching improvements the lives of sufferers and survivors. The Canadian Research Society supports the month here, helping raise funds and awareness throughout the country.

The BCAM and the pink ribbon have grown as focal points for a wide variety of advertising. NFL players wear pink gloves, an actress wears a pink bra and a hidden camera to capture reactions, and Stella McCartney and Kate Moss collaborate on a pink clothing line. These cause-based marketing campaigns have become increasingly relevant to consumers. With a growing interest in corporate social responsibility, it has been on the shoulder of companies to support causes their consumers are passionate about. 89% of millennial consumers say they would switch to another brand if the competitor were associated with a good cause. Companies that engage in making the world a better place stand a greater chance of benefitting themselves in the process. We’ve put together a list of what makes for a successful cause-based campaign.

Sticky stories

Humans are hardwired for storytelling. Universally, we connect through the medium of stories, allowing us to laugh and cry together. The best stories are the ones we relate to and want to share with others. They touch on emotions that reach the far ends of spectrum and incite us to movement. Many cause-based campaigns are emotionally heavy and by tapping into those shared experiences potential supports are given a lens to understand these causes. The Breast Cancer Awareness campaign is a story of survivors and a message of shared hope. A campaign’s story must be truthful, heartfelt and appealing to its desired audience in order to inspire and promote action.

Concrete authenticity

Not everyone has had direct experience with a disease or overwhelming poverty, but by creating a campaign that is grounded in truth has a chance to connect with our basic humanity. Real stories help to build an emotional connection with an audience. Many of the events for Breast Cancer Awareness focus around the stories of people who have been affected either personally or know someone who has suffered through the disease. Brands can also foster this genuineness by enabling users to generate their own content, such as the case of the ALS bucket challenge videos. By maintaining a level of authenticity, brands prove themselves to be credible.

Keep it relevant

Gone are the days where mass marketing sprayed to the world finds its buyers. Today, consumers expect to be treated as individuals and will dismiss what is not significant to themselves. Brands can act as a feeder, directing shoppers toward charities and foundations that are best supporting important causes. By choosing to promote causes that are relevant to their consumer base, a company has the ability to leverage their loyalty to increase their campaigns engagement.

Digital focus (viral-bility)

It’s not anything new: people love to share. What has changed is the mass scale that the digital world allows for people to jump in and attach their voice to events they care about. Having a social component to a campaign allows campaigns to find higher engagement with their target audience. The Breast Cancer Foundation even changed its social media buttons to increase awareness.

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While viralbility is key in online campaigns, the ease in which people are able to act, whether it be donating or purchasing an item adds to the possibility of having it be financially successful. By all measures, BCAM has been a successful cause-based campaign, year after year. While 1 in 9 Canadian women will develop breast cancer, the 5-year survival rate has soared from 73% in the 1980s to 88% today. Over $100 million has been raised for the Canadian Cancer Society. They have supported 74 vital breast cancer trials leading to several breakthroughs that have increased effective therapies and improved early detection. It’s no doubt that many positive outcomes of October’s BCAM has resulted due to the application of these marketing considerations.

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