Ask.com and the Susan G. Komen Foundation Team Up for a Beach Run Against Cancer

Since the diagnosis of my own mother with breast cancer several years ago, I have paid keen attention to the many charitable organizations soliciting funds for cancer research, prevention, and care, particularly those that use Rapidsea imagery to do it. Charities love to use oceans and beaches to extend the warm feeling of giving to their donors.

This week alone, two separate cancer-fighting groups sent along lighthouse and seashell labels in the mail (one using the ethically questionable nickel trick to get people to open the envelope). I question the efficacy of these now ubiquitous mailings. The one with the nickel refused to even identify the organization on the outside of the envelope. It seems that direct mail marketers have at once both saved and destroyed the giving process. Not all charities operate the same.

One group that has been very successful at bringing growing awareness to the world about breast caner is the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. I would argue that the success of the group depends largely on two key initiatives: 1) using people’s networks to bring groups physically together to share stories and provide moral support for those affected by breast cancer both directly and indirectly, and 2) branding the foundation with bright pink.

The Komen Foundation is one of the few non-profit groups that have carried out a major corporate-like branding effort with a single color, and they bring a ton of people together to stand out wearing it. Because of these successes, I wonder why they have gone in another visual direction with a recent campaign in cooperation with Ask.com, in which several pink balloons roll by on the main Ask.com site encouraging you to “peel” back the page:

Ask-com-Susan-Komen-Pink-Balloon

Once you do, you are offered the chance to change your background theme and to join the cancer-fighting cause:

Ask-com-Susan-Komen-Join-Search-for-Breast-Cancer-Cure

If you hit “Start Here,” you get this new homepage with arcs of clouds, sand, water, and a triumphant half-smile (click to enlarge):

Ask-com-Susan-Komen-Breast-Cancer-Theme

It immediately reminded me of the Make-a-Wish airport billboard. It’s an interesting take on the usual beach wallpaper, but in the end it isn’t the beach that makes the image. The woman in pink does. And the element that is lacking from the image is the organization’s first point of success that I brought up above: more than one person running together. I think this image has a rather lonely, tiny-being theme to it. I would assume that they wanted to keep the woman’s story somewhat ambiguous—whether a cancer survivor, supporter, or a family member left behind.

Perhaps they are trying to point out just how alienating having breast cancer can be, but I think about my own reasons for donating recently to the group. I did so because I believe that they are one of the most effective at illuminating the need to continue the fight and because I have been personally touched by the disease.

How can all of these charities take some of the images of escape and paradise and realistically portray what they mean in our physical world rather than trying to use media like pink hot air balloons to transport us all away from the reality of life? I think it comes down to telling people’s stories and connecting with them, even if they have not been personally impacted by cancer or other diseases.

If you would like to donate to the foundation, you can reach them here. And if you’re also looking for an amazing book on breast cancer that can help you make some of the very difficult decisions, we recommend Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book by Susan M. Love, M.D. with Karen Lindsey.  It is a 600-page, well-written and well-illustrated super course to get patients and their loved ones up to speed on research and options.  It also contains 34 dense pages of references at the end to back up the information they present if you want to read more of the technical side.

UPDATE: Two photos jumped out at me on the same Komen text-message donation page that perfectly sum up visually my point above:

Komen-Donate-Now-from-Text-Message-Donation-Page

The top image has so much emotion from two people. The bottom one looks like someone escaping free in the ocean (or worse, a Titanic bow ride). I am so much more compelled to donate because of the top one than the bottom one. Maybe the latter is just stock photography?

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Posted on February 12, 2010
Filed Under Advertising, Beaches, Disease, Health and Wellness, Lighthouses | Leave a Comment

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