Breast Cancer Awareness Marketing has a Pink Problem

Aug 14 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She blogs every day at Sociological Images.

Lindsey B. alerted us to a newly published paper in the Journal of Marketing Research suggesting that the current approach to raising awareness of breast cancer hurts more than helps.  You might have noticed, just maybe, I mean if you’ve been paying attention, that breast cancer has become associated with the color pink.

Stefano Puntoni and his colleagues found that when women were exposed to gender cues, like the color pink, they were less likely than women who had not been primed with a gender cue to think that they might someday get breast cancer and to say that they’d be willing to donate to the cause.  Pink, in other words, decreased both their willingness to fund research and the seriousness with which women took the disease.

Puntoni explains this finding with a common psychological tendency. When people are faced with a personal threat, they tend to subconsciously go on the defensive.  In this case, when women are exposed to information about breast cancer at the same time that they are reminded that they, specifically, are vulnerable to it, they subconsciously try to push away the idea that they’re vulnerable and that breast cancer is something that they, or anyone, needs to worry about it.

4 responses so far

  • Zuska says:

    The pinkification annoys me because it is the commodification of women/breast cancer for corporate profit.

  • Rian Quenlin says:

    I'd just like to correct you on one part: "In this case, when women are exposed to information about breast cancer at the same time that they are reminded that they, specifically, are vulnerable to it"

    This is incorrect, men can get breast cancer as well as women, but it's far more rare. Despite that, all the awareness goes towards the women.

  • Matt says:

    The gender cue is pretty irrelevant overall to the fact it promotes the prevention screenings of breast cancer. It serves as a reminder. If you don't think so, participate in a run/walk sponsored by the susan g komen or go to a fundraising party for breast cancer. You get survivors, their families, as well as those families/friends of people who died from it. The fact that it is so common, and that everyone knows someone with the disease, should warrant enough motivation for women and doctors to promote screenings. In fact, mammograms along with cervical check ups are the most common screenings women get. I'm simply arguing the fact that there is plenty of good cause to use the pink ribbons as promotion of awareness and that the color has nothing to do with whether the person takes it serious or not. It's how it has affected their own life.

  • dodaj says:

    Today, I went to the beachfront with my children.

    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She put the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.

    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely
    off topic but I had to tell someone!