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Breast cancer fight: Think before you 'pink'

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Feb 14 2013 01:31:58 AM CST

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent has this special report about the growing popularity of putting a pink ribbon on products, and some things to think about.

BEND, Ore. -

It's on your shampoo, at the mall, or just out on the streets. Not just in October -- Breast Cancer Awareness Month -- but 365 days year, you're bound to see the iconic pink ribbon.

"The pink campaign, the Susan G. Komen campaign, has been phenomenal," said Cheryl McIntosh with Studio Absolute out of Tumalo.

McIntosh is a branding and marketing expert who called the campaigns bringing women and Americans  together "genius."

"Pink" campaigns have not only raised awareness for breast cancer, but also has made the fight against this disease the most well-branded in the world.

And now for many, the color pink cannot be removed from the cause.

"Having a color, and having this flag to hold is meaningful for us, it gives us something we can do," McIntosh explained, saying that people feel helpless when loved ones get sick and want to do anything they can to show support.

But still,  breast cancer is not the No. 1 killer of women, or even the second. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more women die of heart disease and lung cancer.

In 2010, Susan G. Komen for the Cure raised more than $470 million for breast cancer. Compare that to the American Heart Association's 'Go Red for Women' campaign, which raised about $30 million.

It's a campaign others in the business of marketing envy for its success and pervasiveness.

But some on the inside think there just might be too much pink in the world, like Karuna Jaggar, executive director of San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action, and head of the campaign  "Think Before You Pink."

"Breast cancer is an enormously popular cause," Jaggar said.  "Corporations are making billions, and it is billions with a 'B,' in the name of breast cancer. We want to make sure those dollars are making a difference for women living with, and at risk for breast cancer."

McIntosh said businesses regularly engage in what's called "cause marketing," and she said its human nature to want to do good while shopping.

"People want to help out where they can, and they're going to be buying a product anyways," McIntosh said. "And I'm totally guilty of this, I bought the Pink hair dryer, and I have no idea how much of my purchase actually went toward breast cancer research or awareness."

You too, may have bought the pink hair dryer, the 'I Love Boobies" bracelet or collected yogurt lids to show your support -- but how can you be sure companies aren't pocketing most, or all of the profits?

"The pink ribbon is entirely unregulated," Jaggar said. "So any company can put it on anything, and they do, and we've seen recently that we have a pink ribbon natural gas drilling rig."

And the women these companies claim to support might just be the ones most likely to reject it.

"While there are women who have certainly experienced positive feelings when they see that pink ribbon, there's many women who feel their disease is being exploited," Jaggar said. "And they feel that this is trivialized, and there is a cult of cheerful pink that denies the reality that breast cancer is an ugly disease."

Still, there's no denying advances in medicine, coupled with an explosion of awareness, are saving lives.

"There's far more good that has come out of the Susan G. Komen breast cancer awareness campaigns than bad," McIntosh said.

It may be nearly impossible to separate the good from the bad, but one thing is clear: the pink ribbon is as American as apple pie -- queen of the causes.

Jaggar shared a few tips with NewsChannel 21 on how people can know where their money is going when they buy products:

1. Consider donating directly to the organization you support

2. Read the fine print of products. Watch for a cap on donations.

3. Do you have to take an extra step, liking cutting out a label in order for the company to donate?

4.How much of your purchase is actually going toward breast cancer research?

For more tips and information about Breast Cancer Action and the 'Think Before You Pink' campaign, you can visit thinkbeforeyoupink.org.

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