Getting Social—Social Media’s Boost for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Pink—it’s everywhere this month. My local newspaper is dyed pink. NFL Football players are sporting pink sneakers and wristbands. Niagara Falls and the Georgia Aquarium are showing their support for breast cancer by lighting up in pink for the entire month. And even Microsoft issued a pink mouse to celebrate the cause. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month— a time for women and men to learn, to remember, and to survive.

Nearly everyone knows someone, has a story, or has been affected by this disease somehow, someway. My Grandmother survived — she had a double mastectomy in her seventies. My Aunt died. She was in her forties and had two kids in high school. It’s a cause that nearly everyone can put a human face behind and, as sad as that is, this could be the reason breast cancer is such a well-recognized and widely supported cause.

In fact, breast cancer is now a brand in itself. It has a logo. Sponsored events. Spokespeople and celebrity endorsements. A trademark color. It has an elected month. It’s a successful brand in part because of its ability to create an emotional link with its audience; however, with the ever-changing social media landscape, this brand (along with many other brands) is challenged. Brands need to engage their audience by sharing content – they need to speak and listen—ultimately developing a valuable rapport with its target audience. Interestingly, over the past few years, and gaining momentum each passing year, breast cancer awareness is being touted through various social networks and social media campaigns. It’s clear that breast cancer awareness has an active voice within the social network community.

Social media has the power to be a huge platform for advocating awareness and spreading the word. The YouTube “Pink Glove Dance” video by the Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Oregon proved to be an online sensation. The dance is meant to raise awareness for early detection, pump up hospital employees, and encourage those in the fight against breast cancer. With over 1.8 million hits on YouTube, this social media campaign demonstrated such huge success that Medline, the Chicago-area company that makes the pink gloves and produced the video, decided to create a sequel—with more than 4,000 healthcare workers and breast cancer survivors.

On the other hand, some Facebook campaigns for breast cancer awareness month are quite curious. For example, last year the women of Facebook wrote the color of their bra– and nothing else– as their Facebook statuses. This year, women are using their statuses to fill in the statement about their handbags or pocketbooks: “I like it on the…” Ultimately, they’re trying to sound scandalous, but it’s the lack of correlation between the disease and these campaigns that are confusing. The campaigns seem to be completely irrelevant to anything having to do with breast cancer; however, there’s no denying that the effects of successful campaigning for breast cancer have led to a remarkable decline in the disease. Surprisingly, the campaigns do work. Susan G. Komen for the Cure and The American Cancer Society stated they received a significant increase of Facebook fans and inquires for more information about the disease. The power of social media.

So fellow pink-branding observers—what do you think about the success of breast cancer awareness month thus far? Please share your thoughts of what you noticed most about this campaign. What did you choose to promote or share with friends on your various social networks? What didn’t you want to share (either too sad or too personal)? And for those of you who donated to the cause—what got you to reach into your wallet and donate? Do you see other causes learning from this success and building out their brands? If so we’d love to know who they are. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.