Pinkwashing and why firms in the UAE must do better on cause-engagement

WTCAD Photo

Does this image convey a message on breast cancer awareness to you? No, me neither.

October has passed, and I wanted to share a summary of some of the corporate outreach I’ve seen around the perennial cause of choice at this time of year, namely breast cancer. In many countries around the world, including the UAE, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.

I’m writing this post in the hope that brands understand the need not only to raise awareness of Breast Cancer, but also to support charities either through direct contributions or through cause-related marketing, such as providing a percentage of revenues for a specific product to a charity.

Here are examples of how some brands are promoting themselves, whilst not doing enough in my opinion to support a charity cause.

Staying in The Pink of Health – Tea Time at Al Bayt, Palace Downtown

Honestly, I don’t know where to begin with this idea. Is it enough to create a tenuous link to breast cancer by the use of the color pink (in this case, afternoon tea with a pink theme), without supporting a local charity?

The palatial surroundings and views of Burj Lake at Al Bayt, our lobby lounge, enlivens the time-honoured tradition of afternoon tea. The experience takes on an even more special dimension during the month of October, where you not only savour an assortment of delicious sweet and savoury treats with an unlimited selection of premium tea and coffee, but also participate in the Breast Cancer Awareness initiative every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with a special pink theme. We see it as part of our social responsibility, an experience we encourage you to share with friends and family.

Pink yoga session promotes breast cancer awareness at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi

While there’s a link between exercise and cancer, does a ‘Pink Yoga’ session warrant a media communication? Is this another unwarranted attempt to PR a charity issue, without enough thought as to what the call to action will be?

Hotel guests got in the pink yesterday in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi hosted a session of ‘Pink Yoga’ to promote the health benefits of regular exercise – with all participants asked to wear the color.

Admission was complimentary for people staying at the resort, members of The St. Regis Athletic Club, where the class was held.

People who visit the hotel on or before Saturday will be greeted by a floral arrangement of blush-hued blooms in keeping with the annual health campaign, which is held around the globe each October.

The flowers will remain in the building’s main entrance until Saturday.

Researchers have identified a link between the likelihood of developing breast cancer and being overweight or obese. Regular physical activity and the maintenance of a healthy body weight, along with a healthy diet, can considerably reduce the risk of developing several kinds of the disease, the World Health Organization has stated.

Go Pink This Month With Tweezerman

This announcement takes the prize for the worst possible communication on breast cancer. Whilst the company says that it allocates a portion of its profits to charitable organizations, while actively supporting local communities, there’s no mention anywhere in the communications of who these recipients may be or if my purchase during the month will mean a contribution to a local charity in the UAE. The communication is below:

Pink tweezerman

The beauty tool brand, loved by makeup artists and beauty enthusiasts alike, both locally and internationally, Tweezerman presents the Pink Slant Tweezer in honour of Breast Cancer awareness month.

Like every beauty tool by Tweezerman the Pink Slant Tweezer has a perfectly calculated tension and ergonomic shape for comfort and control and an award-winning hand – filled precision tip, the best for eyebrow shaping.

How To Get Cause-Related Marketing Right

There are so many more bad examples from October out there (including the featured image at the top of the post). Dressing your staff in pink, serving cupcakes and then communicating with the media/through digital channels doesn’t mean that you’re supporting the fight against breast cancer.

I’ve written on the issue of not-for-profit marketing right before, but it still seems that brands aren’t understanding that they need to put in more than a couple of hours thought into this type of exercise. Here’s a simple to-do list:

  1. Build your activity around a consumer insight.
  2. Make sure your brand aligns with the cause.
  3. Involve a charity partner and define your brand’s social responsibility.
  4. Develop a simple promise/call-to-action using clear messaging and accountable outcomes.

If you’re not getting these four steps right, then don’t jump in. The worst thing you can do for a brand is either pinkwash or greenwash. You’re eroding consumer trust in your brand, and your customers will move to another brand that they deem to be more honest.

Brands in the UAE, I hope you’re listening.

Shaping awareness on breast cancer in Saudi – how a local firm won globally for its communications approach

There’s nothing better than getting recognized for good work. What’s even better is to make a difference through your actions. We don’t often get to celebrate our local, Saudi-based public relations industry either because everything comes out of Dubai or our local agencies and companies believe that communications with the media and public begins and ends with a press release.

That doesn’t have to be the case any more in Saudi Arabia. One agency has been looking to change how communications is viewed in the Kingdom. That agency’s name is Adalid, and the founders are Saudi nationals who understand and know not only how the media works but also what communications is capable of.

They’ve notched up a series of impressive wins and campaigns locally since founding the agency two years ago. However, Yahya and Sohaib’s crowning glory is an event that has earned them global recognition. To quote directly from the piece in this summer’s edition of Gulf Marketing Review which can be found here.

“Saudi PR agency takes home two SABRE awards for breast cancer awareness campaign

Jeddah-based Adalid has beaten out 2,000 entries to become the first Saudi-managed and owned public relations firm to win a platinum and gold SABRE award for the one campaign. The much-coveted trophies, which were handed to Adalid’s top executives during the Holmes Group EMEA SABRE Awards ceremony in Prague this May, was in recognition for the success of A Woman’s Stand, a public relations campaign designed to raise awareness of breast cancer among females in Saudi Arabia.

The program, conducted by Adalid Public Relations on behalf of HRH Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud and the Zahra Breast Cancer Association was the unanimous first choice of the SABRE judges…

The campaign, which aimed at raising awareness of breast cancer among women in Saudi Arabia through attempting to create the world’s largest human pink ribbon, worked with traditional media channels such as MBC, women’s magazine Sayidati, and Saudi’s Al-Watan newspaper.

Adalid also utilized social media to both spread awareness of the event as well as mobilize supporters to attend the record-breaking attempt. Thousands of people subscribed to the campaign’s Facebook page and Twitter feeds.

“While this was a professional campaign, it is also one where the benefits reflect directly on my mother, sisters and every single woman, not only Saudi Arabia but across the world,” said Adalid PR’s Managing Director, Yahya Hamidaddin. “Now the Kingdom has demonstrated that there is enough concern to establish a world record and been recognised for its efforts to bring concern over breast cancer out into the open, I am sure we can move forward in the battle to overcome this deeply distressing affliction.”

Adalid was founded in 2009 in Jeddah by a number of Saudi nationals with experience in the public relations industry. The agency extended its geographic reach following the opening of an office in Riyadh last year.

SABRE awards are bestowed annually by The Holmes Group in recognition of a company’s superior achievement in branding and reputation. They are awarded to those public relations, reputation management and brand building campaigns that exemplify a strategic approach in research and planning, innovative thinking, integrity and effectiveness. Gold SABREs recognize the best programmes in specific brand-building and reputation management categories. Only one platinum SABRE is awarded by the judging panel for the best campaign in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. “

Just for good measure the boys and their team of dedicated PR professionals not only won the European SABRE award in May, but topped it off with a global award for the best public stunt of 2011. Adalid’s A Woman’s Stand campaign also made the shortlist for the Holmes Report best global public relations campaign of 2011.

What’s amazing about this campaign is that it’s opened the doors for a comprehensive debate on breast cancer in Saudi. The disease, or more to the point discussion about the condition, is often considered a taboo in this conservative country. Since the campaign there have been calls for more initiatives from the public and private sector, and even an order for breast cancer to be a lead topic during Friday sermons (I still cannot imagine how most Muslim preachers would react to this, to discussing a topic that they’d most likely never thought about before, let alone preaching to their followers).

Thank you Yahya, Sohaib and the rest of the team for making this campaign possible, for promoting breast cancer awareness and for showing how good public relations can be in Saudi Arabia. You and the client have I believed made a huge difference to the women of the country and you’ve been awarded for that. Long may your success continue. I just hope the rest of the public relations industry in Saudi as well as Dubai takes note that we can do more than just send out a press release.