This morning I walked through The Bay and had a look at the many pink products on display as a part of their annual Think Pink program. By purchasing these products consumers can support the work of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF).
At one level, cause related marketing programs like this are a positive way to create awareness of important issues and to motivate behaviour change. However, in addition to featuring products that re-enforce gender stereotypes of women (without a sense of irony which would temper this effect), the Think Pink program raises more concern for me because of a lack consistency and clarity. For example, by purchasing a set of Think Pink Port-Style Flexible Nylon Spatula “a 10% contribution will be made to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation”. I saw a Think Pink dish towel with a tag that states “With a purchase of this Think Pink product, a minimum of 10% (before taxes) will be contributed to the Foundation in support of ongoing research projects”. If you purchase a Pink Ribbon “Bling” Tote, “10% of the net proceeds will be contributed to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. In other cases a specific amount (e.g. $5.00) is directed to the foundation. All the tags that I saw say that “In 2008, Hudson’s Bay Co. contributed $430,000 to the Foundation through the Think Pick program. Finally, some product tags also have this health promotion message “Be Breast Aware. Know your breasts. Look and feel for lumps, changes in skin texture, appearance and shape.”
Here some of are the questions I have for The Bay:
- How much of the $430,000 that is contributed to the CBCF is in donations from consumers and how much is from the company? If this revenue comes from consumers, the tags should state this instead of leaving it ambiguous.
- Why do some product have the health message and some not? Isn’t this the whole idea?
- If I really wanted to support the CBCF, which products have the biggest net contribution to the organization?
- Couldn’t they also help to reduce gender stereotyping by including products other than dish towels and jewelery? (If they did this, perhaps they’d sell more and contribute more because men would buy things too).
When planning cause programs, don’t forget that we’re in “the age of transparency”. Make sure that your programs are clear in their intent, consistent in their messaging, and that your company is also committed at a corporate level in addition to driving donations from consumers.
I welcome your thoughts…
Paul Klein is president of Impakt Corporation, a Toronto-based outfit that helps corporations increase the returns on their community investments.
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