It looks as though Susan G. Komen and Kohl’s have teamed up with Katie Holmes to spread this ‘It’s the Pink Elephant in the Room” campaign to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. Kohl’s has promised to donate $1 for every Pink Kohl’s Cash coupon redeemed with a minimum of $100,000 donated and a maximum of $1 million donated. If you check out the campaign it refers to breast cancer as ‘the elephant in the room’ that nobody wants to talk about, encouraging everyone to talk about breast cancer.
The major problem that I have with this particular campaign is that it is a complete rip off of a previous campaign that I fully support by METAvivor in 2012. As a designer, the number one rule in advertising and marketing was always to come up with your own creative ideas. In this case Kohls and Susan G. Komen did not do that. The other beef that I have is that breast cancer is probably one of the most talked about of cancers, so how could it then be the “Pink Elephant in the Room”?
In METAvivor ‘Elephant in the Pink Room’ campaign they were trying to raise awareness of the under funding of medical research for metastatic breast cancer. They were referring to metastatic breast cancer as being the gloomy, nobody wants to talk about it, incurable breast cancer. In this context the whole elephant in the room makes perfect sense. Yet in the context of Susan G. Komen’s campaign, in a world where pink is everywhere, there is no legitimacy to their campaign. Not to mention the blatant stealing from another breast cancer campaign when we’re supposed to all be in this together.
It’s a big deal because these are two extremely different messages. Talking about breast cancer vs. raising the awareness of the amount of women dying from metastatic breast cancer each year due to the under funding of metastatic breast cancer research. Metastatic breast cancer campaigns have always had to work extra hard to get the word out that metastatic breast cancer is in dire need of funding. It is hard to explain the need of funding for metastatic breast cancer when there is pink everywhere, yet the truth in the matter is that less than 5% of all breast cancer research funds are currently going towards metastatic breast cancer research.
We are not changing the conversation by continuing to do the same thing over and over again. There is no question that breast cancer is out there, however a lot of people do not understand that breast cancer is not a disease that can be cured easily by just finding it early. Out of the men and women diagnosed each year with early stage breast cancer 30% of them will later develop a metastatic breast cancer recurrence and ultimately die from this disease. Those numbers are not even including the 10% of men and women that are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer from the very beginning of their cancer journey.
When METAvivor confronted Kohl’s of the similarities in their campaign and the fact that they are in fact overlooking metastatic breast cancer, Kohl’s politely refused to work with METAvivor of changing their campaign. They agreed to add a little bit of information about metastatic breast cancer, yet they refused to redact the stolen elephant imagery as well as the other similarities in their campaign. It is sad but this is a perfect example of metastatic breast cancer being pushed aside to sell more pink happy merchandise. No one wants to hear about the women in their early 20’s diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, or the women in their 40’s that thought that they had beat breast cancer 8 years prior only for it to return and to have spread throughout their body. These are not the happy pink stories of hope that people want to read about. Unfortunately, this is also sending a message to all metastatic survivors out there that we should just hide in our little pink rooms, our rooms in hospice, and get our affairs in order.
I really had hope in Kohl’s. I thought that as soon as they realized that they had almost completely copied another breast cancer organizations earlier campaign that they would apologize and agree to work with METAvivor. Yet that did not happen. Did it happen out of pure laziness? Did it happen because Kohl’s figured they were big enough of a corporation that they didn’t need to be scared of a smaller volunteer-run nonprofit like METAvivor? Either way it shows Kohl’s is in it for the money more than the message. The idea that ‘Kohl’s Cares” is not present to me at this time. It’s a real shame too for I used to like to shop at Kohl’s, but right now I am just too disgusted by their careless actions that I cannot even fathom walking into one of their stores.
I hope that Kohl’s will turn around and realized the errors of their ways, and that Susan G. Komen will speak up as well. In the time being I hope that you will spread the news and avoid the pink-washing pink elephant campaign. If you want to do some good for breast cancer then support a non-profit like METAvivor where all their funds go towards metastatic breast cancer research. Try to avoid buying pink things you don’t need with funds that will be going who knows where. Let’s start a conversation about metastatic breast cancer. Let’s let the world know that metastatic survivors deserve a voice too. Let’s actually allocate more funds towards metastatic breast cancer and find a true cure for breast cancer. Let’s all put a little more thought into where we put our donations and make sure it’s for a cause we believe in. Remember that just because a charity is big and well known does not always mean they have your best interests at heart, every charity has their own set of goals and allocate their funds to achieve those goals. Be sure to make sure that the charities you are donating to actually do what you think they do.