For marketers, is pink the new green?

Shoppers are a skeptical bunch. We know this all too well from the recent trends in green-washing, where manufactures are making environmental claims that are simply just a marketing tool. As a result, doubtful consumers are increasingly calling out such claims.

Is pink-washing next? We ask ourselves this in the month of October, when the ubiquitous pink of Breast Cancer Awareness Month fills the retail space. From laptops to candy, soup to cornstarch, luxury jewelry and vacuum cleaners, packaging is turning pink everywhere. Anecdotally and from our own consumer research, we know that shoppers are growing more skeptical of such claims. This skepticism is also addressed on the Susan G. Komen for the Cure website (the website of the world’s leading breast cancer organization), where tips are offered on how to know if a program is “one you can feel good about.” Websites like also offer consumers education regarding which pink ribbon promotions are actually doing good work.

With all this skepticism should manufactures rethink executing their pink promotions? Probably not. In 2006 when Campbell turned its iconic red and white label pink, they doubled sales of their top varieties in Kroger. From our own survey of Target, Kroger, Safeway and Walmart, pink promotions got prime aisle end-caps as well as additional signage on shelf. This year even more manufactures are participating in pink causes, giving retailers a chance to prop-up their own pink promotions.

With all the support from retailers and shoppers it makes sense to pink your product. To combat perceptions and innate skepticism with any cause, Paul Bloom from Ad Age offers three things to examine when crafting your cause promotion: consumer research, relationship building and long-term buy-in. We’d also add that the promotion needs to be clear, including how to contribute, what the donation cap is and why the manufacturer cares about breast cancer. Above all the promotion should be easy to get involved with so shoppers will actually participate. A breast cancer promotion executed properly is a win-win situation for everyone.

– Contributed by Erin Anderson and Aime Stephens