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The natural gas fracking company: Baker Hayes takes the cake for wacky Pink Product ™ of the Year.

“Our hope is from the water cooler to the rig site to the coffee shop to everywhere, someone gets this information to their spouses, their girlfriends, their daughters so we can create awareness and end this disease forever,” he said, explaining that each pink steel bit would shipped to drill sites in pink-topped containers with information packets about breast health inside.”

But before the noise from the PinkWashing Patrol overtakes the commentary, lets stop blaming the beast for being… well a beast.

Two takeaways for today:

1) Creating an awareness campaign and then crying foul when it raises awareness is absurd. Awareness campaigns are by definition, about raising awareness and putting arbitrary boundaries on awareness is ridiculous. The beast must be fed.

2) Reducing the cost of entry into this game to effectively zero and then slamming companies who take advantage of it is similarly insane. Of course KFC, Mike’s and PornHub are going to take the opportunity (images below).

AWARENESS OR MONEY?

Awareness campaigns also, as a rule, do not raise real money (which one would ultimately suggest is the only material way we’ll influence breast cancer mortality or other factors), nor do they promote actual meaningful dialogue. At best they generate (wait for it) awareness but more likely they generate apathy or a version thereof. The moment it succeeds is the moment it fails. So don’t go blaming Baker Hayes for doing exactly what the DNA of the campaign was designed (intentionally or not) to do.

Exceptions exist. Sometimes the stars align and we get both awareness & money; but the scale has to be so massive (think: IceBucket Challenge, KONY2012, PinkRibbon) that it’s both not accessible to the masses nor reproduce able the years to follow. And if you think the conversation has advanced, I’ll buy you a bucket of chicken.

Certainly some causes need “mass” awareness, most need money or meaningful dialogue amongst a segmented audience.

When the frackin’ CEO gives a statement like: “The hope is that the roughneck who cracks open the container learns a bit more about the disease that afflicts 200,000 women per year” he’s doing exactly what an awareness campaign is designed to do: raise awareness. The real argument is not whether they’re trying to cover up their ‘evil ways’ with Pink, but “what good does awareness amongst male ‘roughnecks’ actually do for breast cancer?” and the general response will (eventually) be: not much.

SINCERITY OR CENTS?

Think Before You Pink and similar critics miss the point. Debating whether the company is ‘sincere’ in its “care” for the cause is juvenile. If you’re going to go down that road, scratch every donor who’s given out of guilt, or because a family member asked and you didn’t want to say no, or some street fundraiser cornered you. It seems similarly naive to debate the ‘source’ of the funds. Whether Swiffer could maybe be a contributor to breast cancer and therefore their gift is invalid is like asking every single breast cancer donor the income sources of the specific funds given to you.

Companies do it because the cost of entry is literally pennies. It costs nothing for PornHub (that’s right) to make a PR campaign claiming .01 for every view of a breast related video will generate a gift to the Susan Komen Foundation and yet the return is massive. It costs next to nothing for Baker Hayes to spray its fracking drills pink to ‘raise awareness’ but you better believe they’ve gotten the PR spend makes the accountant smile. Same with Pepper Spray, Fried Chicken and more.

If you really want to find out who is sincere about Breast Cancer, make the cost of entry $1 000 000 for Baker Hayes, then you’ll probably know whether it was a cheap marketing play or a sincere effort to “raise awareness.” You can’t have it both ways. There’s no such thing as a charitable donation for a company – literally as far as our government is concerned, for a company, there is only a marketing expense (cough awareness). So if the marketing expense is worth the expense, the company should do it. By definition it cannot spend a dollar if it does not return a dollar to its shareholders, which is basically the exact opposite definition of a gift.

Why did a fracking company choose Pink? Probably because the cost of entry and the potential return in PR ratio was so good it was hard to pass up. Absurd? totally, but a thinly veiled, absurd charity campaign is a perfect way to cut through the noise.

LOOKING AHEAD

Start considering what impact awareness campaigns actually have, and what impact they are actually even designed to have (pink ribbons, yellow bands, buckets of ice or posters of a war criminals on street signs). Stop blaming the beast for being a beast, crying foul when the Baker Hayes of the world frack for the cure. Stop witch hunting to decide who you think is ‘sincere’ and insincere in their exploitation of the awareness campaign. Let them stand for what they are or are not.

Instead, start a constructive conversation on the value of the charitable brand, the return on charitable dollars and (most importantly) whether Breast Cancer (and the other terrible diseases and problems) need awareness or actually just need a cure.

 

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