The following is a reposting of my first blog first during 2010’s October Breast Cancer Awareness month. I thought it was an appropriate way to close out Breast Cancer Awareness month in 2011…
Here in Chicago this October, I saw the color pink everywhere I went. Walking from a dance performance at Harris Theater in Millenium Park to Michigan Avenue on a fall evening, I looked over to see the Smurfit-Stone building, known to many as the Y- building, or “The Vagina Building,” lit with the color pink. I was used to seeing “pink” products in Susan G. Komen’s Breast Cancer Awareness pink ribbon cause marketing campaign in the grocery store this fall, but I was surprised to see it in Chicago’s skyline that evening (quite cleverly placed I might add).
What is cause marketing? One of the more concise and simple explanations of cause marketing can be found on Alden Keene’s Cause Marketing website (see below) where the blogger Paul Jones describes it as “a relationship that bridges cause and commerce in ways that mutually benefit both parties.” The Pink Ribbon campaign is a litmus test in cause marketing. But does it influence awareness about breast cancer (and solicit funding to Susan G. Komen) in a meaningful way, or does it reach a tipping point when it seems to be everywhere without appearing to be anything special?
So this a big question, I realize that. But I wanted to start coming to terms with this question by trying to put in words what went through my head when I saw the pink flood lights in the sky.
Seeing pink everywhere this fall reminded me of the concept of “normalization.” Don’t yawn, it’s actually pretty interesting. My Women’s Studies background makes me want to break it down according to Foucault (a social science philosopher who critically analyzed issues of power, knowledge, and social institutions).
Normalizing to Foucault meant how society makes something appear normal and how we in turn conform to social norms. The pressure to be what we perceive as “normal” appears to come from everywhere yet nowhere. The metaphor that Foucault is well known for using in order to explain this is the prison watch tower; as long as the prisoners (us) perceive ourselves as being watched, we monitor our actions, and the actions of others, even if a prison guard is not there.
Is the pink tower in the sky something as influential as Foucalt might suggest? Does it serve to normalize breast cancer awareness (and supporting pink products to help fund breast cancer research) in any kind of meaningful way? Will you find yourself next October in the grocery aisle reaching for a product with the pink ribbon, because you don’t want the people down the aisle to shun your cold, heartless face?
Normalizing and the pink ribbon tower… maybe that’s one of the ways that cause marketing has connected social causes with profits this October.
Alden Keene’s website, blogged by Paul Jones, is “Cause Marketing: Dedicated to Highlighting and Dissecting the Best and the Worst Cause Marketing Promotions and Campaigns” is at http://causemarketing.blogspot.com
(photo by Hirotomo of a Tokyo tower @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/travelstar/5046809289/in/faves-29654410@N02/)