News and analysis
October 13, 2014

Why It’s Time to Rethink Pink

This month we are flooded with cause-marketing campaigns related to breast-cancer awareness.

There are walks, runs, bike rides, and other races to raise money for a cure. Public-service announcements will run on everywhere. Breast-cancer-related storylines will be integrated into prime-time television shows. And don’t forget all those pink ribbons.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. It could also be an opportunity to move the conversation beyond awareness and highlight other critical causes and issues.

There is no question: We should do everything in our power to find a cure for breast cancer and provide support to those who are already battling the disease.

But awareness alone won’t accomplish those goals. And the focus on continuing to raise awareness about the disease may be limiting our ability to achieve even more in other areas.

What’s the first step? It’s time to re-think pink.

Awareness has its place—and its limits. The cause-marketing efforts that unfold in October do a lot to brand corporations as philanthropic and committed to serious issues, introduce nonprofit organizations to new audiences, and spark enthusiasm among individuals for an important cause.

But can we improve and expand on current efforts to deliver even more important outcomes? Could we achieve more if the reach and influence of brands were focused on a different challenge—beyond raising awareness? Do we understand how to connect the promotional efforts to the important outcomes that are needed?

The answer to all of the above is yes.

Over the next week, The Chronicle will publish a series of ideas focused on what can be done to transform our approach to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, cause marketing, and engagement. The goal is to present specific, actionable ideas that go beyond raising awareness.

We are thinking about changing people’s behaviors and how to move in the right direction as a society toward addressing this important issue in a meaningful, measurable way. We are thinking about how to maximize the interest of companies, nonprofits, media, and individuals alike on important issues and efforts that require something more than just greater awareness.

Throughout it all, we’d like to make this a discussion. Comment here and on the ideas we’ll be posting this week to start a conversation about ways that we can improve the philanthropic efforts of this month.

Brian Reich is a strategist and writer for executive leaders at global brands, media companies, startups, nonprofits, and political and advocacy organizations. He is the author of two books: “Shift & Reset: Strategies for Addressing Serious Issues in a Connected Society” (Wiley, 2011) and “Media Rules! Mastering Today’s Technology to Connect With and Keep Your Audience” (Wiley, 2007). He speaks regularly to corporations, associations, and universities around the world on the impact of media and technology. For more information, visit or follow @brianreich on Twitter.