Komen's Wild Ride
by Alicia C. Staley
Dear Susan G. Komen for the Cure:
Stop. Just stop. I've reached the point where I'm embarrassed by you and all your branding efforts for the cure. I see tons of pink ribbons, plastered on everything from shampoo to lawn mowers and cat litter. I'm beyond aware. I'm frustrated. I can no longer justify your breast cancer awareness campaigns to my friends that want to know why there's no cure. I've received more emails in the past week over at Awesome Cancer Survivor expressing exasperation at the breast cancer community than I care to count. As a breast cancer survivor, I shouldn't have to justify your behaviors.
When you launched your partnership with Kentucky Fried Chicken (aka "Buckets for the Cure"), I excused your lapse of judgment. I assumed it was a temporary slip, and you'd eventually focus your energies back on partnerships and alliances that aligned more closely with your stated goal of "For the Cure." You trumpeted the partnership, declaring KFC would make the largest one time donation of an estimated $8 million to Komen. The ultimate goal of the $8 million donation never materialized. According to your own reports, you only took in $4.2 million. Not pocket change by any stretch of the imagination, but only about half of what you were looking to grab. You are the self-proclaimed leader of the breast cancer community. Where is your leadership?
When you went after the little guys, suing everyone and anything using the phrase "for the cure", I lost all respect for you. You attacked the very people that are desperately seeking a cure and trying to find some solace in the face of this devastating disease. Instead of reaching out your hand to help lift these groups up, you smacked them down with frivolous lawsuits. Exactly how is "Grandmas for the Cure" hurting your multi-million dollar campaign and branding efforts? These small charities, working for a cure, picked up the baton you dropped long ago. You are the self-proclaimed leader of the breast cancer community. Where is your leadership? Where is your compassion?
When you launched a perfume, I realized your days as a leading breast cancer charity were dwindling. A perfume named "Promise Me?" Why? Do you know that chemical sensitivities are heightened while undergoing chemotherapy? To this day, almost 18 years after my last chemo, I still have trouble with certain smells and tastes. I can't imagine the thought of wearing a perfume that reminds me, everyday, of the lack of progress made in the fight against breast cancer. Were you expecting every woman fighting breast cancer to spritz on some "Promise Me" before heading out to the cancer center? You are the self-proclaimed leader of the breast cancer community. Where is your leadership? Where is your compassion? Where is your creativity?
And now this: Roller Coasters for the Cure. Did someone run this one by corporate? A Komen affiliate has co-opted the pink ribbon to plaster on a roller coaster ride. According to the press release: "Wild Waves challenges all U.S. theme parks to paint their Skycoasters pink to raise awareness for breast cancer." Save the paint. Remind me again - for what exactly are you raising awareness? We're all aware. It's time to move beyond awareness. You are the self-proclaimed leader of the breast cancer community. Where is your leadership? Where is your compassion? Where is your creativity? Where is your self-respect?
The backlash is here. The Komen Bandits are organizing. Count me in as a bandit. I'll carry the torch for Joan, Jeannie, Susan, Martha, Mary, Karen, and Lisa. These women were dear friends that died from metastatic breast cancer. I'm asking you to take a leadership role in addressing the lack of progress made for those facing the metastatic aspects of this disease. The once mighty Pink Ribbon, used all these years to herald the importance of breast cancer awareness, is quickly becoming the poster child for cause marketing overload. Don't make this your legacy and drag the rest of the breast cancer community down with you.
You've done a great job of making us all aware of breast cancer. Please take those next steps to help those that continue to suffer. Leaders don't rest on their laurels. They keep moving, they keep innovating. They don't go back and rehash the same products and promotions over and over again. We get it: You could sell a pink ribbon popsicle to a woman in white gloves. But, please know, your days of King of the Mountain won't last long if you don't address the groundswell of criticism directed at you. Wake up, the bandits are coming. And we're not happy.
Promise me that metastatic disease will become a priority for your organization.
Promise me that you'll visit the nearest cancer center and sit with those women going through treatment right now. It's not a pretty sight. Frustration is alive and well there, if not much anything else.
Promise me that you'll remember why you started this fight in the first place.
Promise me that you'll take these next steps or get out of the way.