Creative Commons

2010-01-08 10:02:15

Breast Cancer Blunder of 2010

UDPATE: I took my own advice and made the web page to help this effort:

For the past couple days most people have noticed the barrage of single word "color" status updates on social networking sites such as Facebook. If you are a guy (and sometimes even some women) your first reaction was that of confusion. You scrolled through your feed and saw more and more people just posting colors. What gives? The more you read it becomes clear that only women are posting these colors. Something’s going on, and you’re out of the loop.

Black, magenta, nude, and my favorite, nothing; those were just some of the updates I saw in my Facebook feed. In a few minutes my mood swept from confused to annoyed as I couldn’t figure out what these colors meant. Finally, I gave in and asked:

Someone wanna tell me what's up with the color status updates on Facebook right now? I'm in the dark.

Of course, my question was posted to Twitter, which then gets cross-posted to Facebook. This gives me the opportunity to ask a much larger audience which hopefully means more answers. The first answer was almost instant and was posted as a comment to the cross-post on Facebook:

That's the point.

Another mood change; this time from annoyed to pissed. I was immediately teleported to elementary school where it was cool to have your own secret "club" and go around giggling when someone isn’t "in" on your secret club goings-on. It wasn’t fun back then and I have a news flash for you, Walter Cronkite, it’s not now.

Lucky for my sanity, another Facebook reply was mere seconds away:

its your bra color...

Interesting… So every woman is posting the color of their bra. I have no idea why, but at least this is good fuel for my inner frat-boy (to be honest, I was never in a frat).

The replies kept pouring in, but the next reply (this time, on Twitter) would tell me what I needed to know:

@slonkak Bra color. For breast cancer awareness.

So all of these color posts are supposed to be raising awareness for breast cancer? Really? Up until now, if you weren’t part of the "in" crowd the only thing you were becoming aware of was your anger towards the people keeping this secret. This article, however, isn’t meant to demean those involved in this charade. Soon after the true nature of these posts being revealed, my anger was redirected from the posters to the creator of this debacle.

What is the point of raising awareness? To those of you in the advertising industry, this acronym should be familiar: TOMA. It means Top Of Mind Awareness. This can be demonstrated in many ways. What do you reach for when you have a runny nose? For most people, it’s a Kleenex (not a generic tissue). What do you reach for when you need to grease a pan for cooking? For most people, it’s Crisco (not generic baking grease). These products have reached TOMA with the mass public. Their marketing people did an excellent job of making people think of one, specific brand when they need to do something. Of course other brands exist, but you don’t think of them because Kleenex and Crisco have been engrained in your head.

But I digress; what does this have to do with breast cancer awareness? Let’s take a step back. Why do we want to make anyone aware of anything? We don’t care if people know that breast cancer exists. That’s useless and doesn’t help anything or anyone. What we should care about is that people know that breast cancer exists so they do something about it. The point of raising awareness is to cause action.

This is the ultimate flaw with the “color posting"; people are not given the opportunity to take action. These posts fail this point in two ways:
  1. If people don’t know what you’re talking about, they don’t have a basis for taking action.
  2. If you don’t direct someone on how to take action, they probably won’t.
The first point is self explanatory. If you want someone to know that something exists tell them that it exists. Don’t beat around the bush. The second point is the key to making “awareness raising" a success. This is the “action" part of the failure of this charade. A status update like this is worthless:


But a status update like this brings us closer to raising awareness about the topic and giving people the opportunity to help the cause:


So what’s the difference? All I did was throw a link on the end. That’s the point. Now, for someone who doesn’t know what these “color posts" are all about, clicking on the link will give them an idea. By clicking that link they are taken to a page to donate at Now not only can the women have their fun by posting their bra colors, but everyone else who sees these posts can find out why and actually contribute to breast cancer research.

I mentioned earlier that this “better" status update would only bring us closer to raising awareness. It’s not the best way to do it. A better way would be to change the link. Right now, the link takes you to a donation page. That’s great and it gives people the opportunity to take action for the cause. The problem with this, however, is that there is no link between the color and the donation page. People can click the link and still have no idea why someone posted a color on their Facebook page. They might get the idea that the color has something to do with breast cancer, but they still don’t know what.

For this whole orchestration to be a success from the start only one simple thing had to be done: create a single web page. This web page would contain a few items:
Now we have come full circle. The fun and enjoyment of these status updates can be had, everyone has the opportunity to be in the loop by clicking the link and reading the web page, and everyone can take part in helping to end breast cancer by donating to research centers that work every day to cure this disease.

With a little bit of planning, this effort could have been a success. It, however, doesn’t have to stop here. I now call upon you, the Internet, to revitalize the “bra color" effort. Do it again, the right way, and let’s get one step closer to curing breast cancer.



2010-01-08 11:45:36

Matt Simmons says...
Damn, it's about time someone thought about this, too. I had to ask my wife.

Talk about counter-productive. Esoteric knowledge != public awareness. Who's stupid idea was this?

2010-01-08 12:50:39

slonkak says...
I have no idea who started it. It doesn't look like any newspapers that have ran the story know either...

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