Breast Cancer Awareness Month and October go hand in hand. As the leaves begin to change so do the colors of football player’s socks, kitchen blenders, and hardware toolkits- all turning a shade of light pink. While this sea of pink acts a super boost in consumer awareness of the disease, it also brings the age-old debate triggered by cause marketing to the surface. How much of this money from these products are actually going directly to the cause, versus profiting the corporation behind the product?

Pinkwashing.  A term coined by Breast Cancer Action in reference to companies that promote breast cancer awareness while not being transparent about where the funds go or in other cases put a pink tinge on products with suspected links to cancer.

The Susan G. Komen foundation realized that they needed to shift the conversation back to their roots and tackle pinkwashing head on. In October of last year, they rolled out the More Than Pink campaign with the bold goal of reducing the current breast cancer deaths in the United States by 50 percent by 2026. This campaign leaves us with three important lessons in cause marketing.

Lead with the mission not marketing:

The More Than Pink campaign was spurred from the realization that the public had lost sight of the mission behind the Susan G. Komen foundation after the organization took a major PR hit in 2012 for deciding to defund Planned Parenthood, then quickly reversing their decision. At its core, the Susan G. Komen foundation is a grassroots community effort.

The More Than Pink campaign circled things back to this identity- focusing on education, statics, and providing direct actions consumers can take to get involved at the grassroots level. While a pink blender is an adorable kitchen appliance and great marketing visual, creating a campaign that aligns with the organizations roots resonates more with the truth of the organization.

Add meaning to the numbers:

As the organization was recovering from the bad press in 2012, they were forced to answer the hard questions of where the donations were truly going. The More Than Pink campaign informed the public more than ever about where their money was going- whether it would be to research grants or clinical trials. The Komen News section of the campaign site is now more than just research. Now it is a spot that adds context and information alongside the digits.

Tell the stories of real men and women:

Here at Teak, we are always searching for the human story behind it all. This campaign was launched with the same thought in mind. Komen made it clear that pink is more than a color, but a representation of each human fighting against breast cancer. The campaign celebrates and tells the story of the everyday heroes who are fighting breast cancer, everyone from patients to volunteers. These stories put a human face and connection to the cause, solidifying the meaning behind the mission.

With more than 1,600 competing breast cancer organizations across the country and a PR blunder on their hands, the Susan G. Komen foundation was working with an uphill battle. Their More Than Pink campaign leveraged their global partnerships in a way that was beyond the creation of a pink product. Partners were reinvigorated by the shift in focus and conversation. Komen showed the public that a successful cause marketing campaign must be rooted in compelling stories, meaningful numbers and most importantly the mission.