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The pink ribbon is universally recognized as a symbol of breast cancer awareness. But what does it convey?

Initially, the pink ribbon was used to raise the visibility of breast cancer as an important women’s health issue and a growing epidemic. This goal has been achieved. Now the pink ribbon also sells a lifestyle. You can race for the cure, laugh for the cure, drink for the cure and most importantly, BUY for the cure.

Because the pink ribbon symbol does not belong to any one person or company (unless a stylized version has been trademarked), anyone can use the pink ribbon. Companies and organizations use pink or place the pink ribbon on their products to suggest their support of the Cause. Some companies and corporations also engage in cause marketing (i.e., when a for-profit company partners with a non-profit organization to increase sales while donating a portion of those sales to the organization. Consumers often buy products emblazoned with the pink ribbon because they believe their indirect contributions are helping to find a cure for breast cancer. Because there are no regulations on the uses of the pink ribbon, many companies simply use it as a marketing tool to get consumers to buy their products without donating any of the proceeds at all. When companies do donate money raised through the sale of pinked products, little is known about how those dollars are used, or even if they are used to support worthy organizations, further research, or provide meaningful help those who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

The purpose of this project is to explore the extent to which the pink ribbon symbol is visible in your everyday life, in the products and services students see on a regular basis.

For this project Amber Deane’s students submit pictures of the pink ribbon products and paraphernalia they observe in their everyday lives and explain how the items are being used. In addition to providing a brief description of the product, where it was sold and when the photo was taken, students document the product’s “fine print” – (1) whether the product benefits a particular breast cancer organization or simply has a general phrase such as “supports the fight against breast cancer” or “toward breast cancer research”; (2) how much will be donated, and (3) whether there are any limitations on the donation (e.g., up to $500 thousand dollars, on items sold during the month of October, etc.).

Students also submit pictures of pink ribbon/breast cancer displays such as those featured in stores across the country during breast cancer awareness month.

Students submissions are used to analyze the proliferation of pink ribbon products in a small community in the southern United States.

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