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The Transcendence of Pink

Posted At: November 21, 2011 1:06 PM

The color pink is not only used to deliver unspoken verification to hospital visitors waiting for the arrival of new life. Now, the color pink is better known for delivering a different type of message — breast cancer awareness.

The beginning

An article by the Breast Cancer Society Inc. stated that the roots of the growing relationship between pink and breast cancer originated in 1991, when pink ribbons were passed out at a Susan G. Komen breast cancer race in New York City. However small the gesture seemed at the time, the ribbons marked the beginning of a phenomenon. The article said, “Since then, breast cancer and the color pink have been linked together all over the world.”

The ribbon

Use of the pink ribbon associated with breast cancer today was launched through a promotion centered on the ribbon itself. About a year after the New York race, the editor-in-chief of SELF, Alexandra Penney, paired with Evelyn Lauder of Estee Lauder to create a campaign, making pink the symbolic color of breast cancer awareness.

The ambition began when, a year earlier, SELF published a Breast Cancer Awareness issue received with enthusiastic support. Spinning off this initial success, Penney proposed a new campaign to Lauder that involved creating a pink ribbon to place on cosmetics sold throughout New York. SELF promoted and advertised for the initiative in its magazine, and Lauder upped the anti by promising to place the dyed pink ribbon on cosmetic items and products around the world.

The color pink

Lauder and Penney launched the campaign of the “150 pink” ribbon in 1991. “150 pink” is the specific shade of pink that was chosen to represent breast cancer. This ribbon would serve a more important role than decorating little girls’ Sunday school dresses; it would save lives with just one pin, noting to people everywhere the importance of awareness.

Estee Lauder “pinked out” the makeup world from A to Z, covering everything from skin care to hair care, and including brands such as Estee Lauder, Clinique, M-A-C, Tommy Hilfiger, Aveda, Micheal Kors, Coach and Smashbox. It was soon hard to purchase the essentials without coming across a little pink reminder.

The initial success of the campaign was evident from the $18 million Estee Lauder raised. Estee Lauder used the profits to start the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a diagnostic and treatment center. From the campaign’s launch in 1992 to now, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation has increased its annual funding by 200 percent, distributed more than 115 million pink ribbons and raised more than $35 million for the foundation.

The world-wide trend

The campaign does not just target Americans; Lauder hoped for the color to be a sign that doesn’t discriminate. In 1995 Estee Lauder hired famous model Elizabeth Hurley as the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign Ambassador. Since then, Estee Lauder’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign has reached unimaginable territories all over the world.

Sara Delarosa from Ogilvy Public Relations World Wide said that one reason for the success of the campaign might be a result of the number of celebrities continually affected by the disease. The celebrities draw an increased amount of publicity for the cause and support from fans.

Through the 2010 initiative, “World Pink, World Without Breast Cancer. Wear a Pink Ribbon. Make a Difference.”,  an event for Global Landmark Illuminations, 40 major landmarks around the world glowed pink in unison on October 1.

This year, Hurley and Lauder have joined forces with James Gager, senior vice president and group creative director for MAC, to launch the initiative, “Together. Connect. Communicate. Conquer. For A Future Free of Breast Cancer.”

In an article from Businesswire, Lauder said this campaign will bring “millions together with the single-minded goal of saving lives through awareness about the important of breast health and early detection the world over… Let’s join together.”

More than 200 landmarks worldwide delivered the message of hope to save lives through pink illumination.

The pink ribbon has become the way to support breast cancer patients, raise awareness for breast cancer and donate to breast cancer research. It seems a little pink ribbon can say and do it all.

The article on the Breast Cancer Research Foundations website said, “A bridge has been built across cultures and languages that has had a lasting impact on the world.”

The “pink out” makes a statement by integrating color and awareness into thousands of successful campaigns. The goal is to unite and reach everyone possible and the color pink has managed to cross many different barriers to accomplish its goal.

Crossing the gender barrier

The NFL has crossed the gender barrier and brought pink into the world of football, pairing with the American Cancer Society for “A Crucial Catch” campaign. Ann Misner, Crucial Catch Program Manager, American Cancer Society, said the campaign’s title says it all.

“Making ‘A Crucial Catch’ and catching breast cancer when it is early enough to be treated is critical,” Misner said.

Misner explained that many NFL players have lost loved ones to the disease, including Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald and Caroline Panthers’ DeAngelo Williams. Williams has even made suggestions to innovate the campaign.

Misner said that all 32 NFL clubs participate — players, office executives, cheerleaders and coaches all support the cause. Players choose to wear a “host of different apparel products” ranging from pink cleats and pink gloves, to pink sideline hats and pins during the month of October. The apparel is then auctioned off at, and the proceeds are donated to the American Cancer Society.

Through the campaign, Misner said the NFL “hopes to reach women with [the] screening message. We also hope to reach men who all have a mom, sister, daughter or wife who can learn about breast cancer prevention and early detection.” One united message can go far when everyone is touched.

The campaign caught on all the way to youth and high school levels when Coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles sent a letter to each youth and high school coach across the country, requesting their help in fighting this disease.

Mid-South Division Communications and Marketing Associate Director Tracie Bertaut said that any coaches who are interested in jumping on board with the campaign are encouraged to contact a campaign director. They will walk them through the steps of the initiative to create pink fields on more than just Sunday nights.

Another example of crossing the gender barrier is Ford’s campaign, Warriors in Pink, launched in 2006. Ford is a client of Ogilvy Public Relations. The campaign, Warriors in Pink, is nationally sponsored by Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and began by targeting participants at the races.

Delarosa said, “Ford is traditionally thought of as an ‘all-American’ and ‘traditional’ automotive company.” It is now marketing more customers than just its car-obsessed customers, with its own strong, warrior-like spin to fighting breast cancer.

Ford held “Warriors of the Week” contests through “The View,” organized “Gear up with Grey’s Anatomy” sweepstakes and started the Warriors in Pink clothing line to kick off their fierce stance again breast cancer.

Warriors in Pink apparel is sold to men, women and children with proceeds sent directly to Race for the Cure. The clothing is decorated with symbols that represents survivors’ or “warriors’” journeys with the disease. For example, the “warriors” symbol represents “the powerful and courageous that fight against breast cancer” and the “war paint” symbolizes warriors that are ready to go into battle.

With the success of Warriors in Pink, Ford has donated more than $110 million to the breast cancer cause. Ogilvy and Ford hope to actively engage people to participate in promoting awareness. Delarosa said, “our commitment goes beyond raising funds.”

Crossing the business barrier

Local businesses are teaming up in support of breast cancer awareness by using the color pink on their products and donating a portion of the profits to breast cancer related initiatives.

Delarosa said in her blog post “Are You Thinking Pink,” “Almost every single company gets involved! You can buy pink jump drives and computers and many items at Best Buy, and I was able to buy a pink CHI hair straightener.” The “pink out” makes a statement by integrating the color and awareness to thousands of everyday objects.

The color pink has been established as an internationally recognized trademark. Breast cancer has claimed the color as its “own.” And it all started with those pink ribbons at the 1991 race.

The article on the Breast Cancer Research Foundation website said the symbol of the pink ribbon that has been created, innovated and established “needs no translation and transcends all languages and boundaries. Around the world, people of every age and race recognize this significance of the ubiquitous Pink Ribbon.”

With so many opportunities and outlets, Delarosa asks, “Are you thinking pink?”

Photo courtesy of Global Illumination

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