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Shopping for the cure

Shopping for the cure

This is part of a month-long series of posts examining the cause marketing phenomenon that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Yesterday, we looked into Estée Lauder‘s Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign, which includes a retail sales fundraising component. One example was a $30 scented candle that offered $5 from every purchase going to the cause.

This is another issue that bears examination during October’s pink marketing blitz: The sometimes laughable amounts of donation money used to spur for-profit sales.

Here’s a typical example from the fashion industry, Bare Necessities intimate wear.

Here’s the fine print:

Bare Necessities is proud to support The Breast Cancer Research Foundation® to help find a cure for one of the most common cancers affecting women. With every bra you buy throughout the month of October, we’ll donate 25 cents to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, with a minimum donation of $10,000.

So basically, they have committed $10,000 to breast cancer research. Good for them. But why tie it to a piddly amount like 25¢ per bra?

Let’s look at Le Mystère, “Oprah’s favorite bra”.


This thing costs about $70. So a woman purchasing one of these over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders (sorry) can feel good about 0.36% of their purchase is going to save women’s lives. Imagine!

Why so little, if they’ve already committed to $10,000?

Think about it: They’ll have to sell 40,000 brassieres this month before they are in for any more than their minimum commitment. And then, they’re only in for 25¢ per additional bra. There’s no downside for the brand. The 10K has already been budgeted, and they will undoubtedly experience a surge in well-meaning shoppers.

The donation is substantial, true, but is also a pittance when compared to real marketing budgets. So why make the customer participation aspect so insultingly trivial?

Bare Necessities

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more