What’s the deal with the pink ribbon?
Ribbons became prominent symbols for causes in the late 1970s when yellow ones were used to express solidarity for the American hostages held in Iran. Red ribbons appeared on celebrity lapels in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis and received considerable media attention. By the end of the decade, causes had ribbons.
Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation handed out pink ribbons in their 1991 New York Race for the Cure. Then in 1992, Self Magazine was working on its second annual National Breast Cancer Awareness Month issue. Their first issue had been guest-edited by Evelyn Lauder, a breast cancer survivor and executive in cosmetic giant Estee Lauder. Self’s editor, Alexandra Penney, came up with the idea to put pink ribbons on cosmetics this year, an idea Lauder loved and promised to take nation-wide.
About a week later, they learned about Charlotte Healey, a 68 year old woman whose family had been touched by breast cancer. She was making peach ribbons in her living room and attaching notes that read: The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon. She sold them and gave them out at the grocery store and by the time word got to Penney at Self Magazine, she had distributed over a thousand.
So Self Magazine reached out to her, wanting to incorporate the ribbon into their campaign. Haley refused their offer, wanting to keep the campaign grass-roots. Self consulted with their attorneys who said to find a new ribbon color.
They chose pink.
At the same time, research was popping up showing that given a choice, consumers would choose a brand linked to a cause over an equal brand that wasn’t. Cause Marketing became all the rage for corporations.
Lauder’s pink ribbons were countered in 1993 by Avon’s pink ribbon jewelry. Then Lauder introduced compacts with pink ribbons. Then Komen introduced a rhinestone pink ribbon brooch.
In 1996, the New York Times labeled breast cancer “this year’s hottest charity.”
Flash forward to 2013 and you can buy just about anything with a pink ribbon.