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.

One Day #WithoutShoes – How TOMS is getting consumer sustainability spot on

TOMS' sustainability strategy is simple to understand, its aligned to the business, and it's designed with consumers - and social media - in mind

TOMS’ sustainability strategy is simple to understand, its aligned to the business, and it’s designed with consumers – and social media – in mind

It’s fair to say that getting sustainability right is a challenge for most companies; it’s even harder when you throw consumers into the mix. However, every now and then a campaign comes along that makes you sit up and take notice.

Founded in 2006, the US-based shoe retailer TOMS was founded with a strong sense of giving back to communities in need. The company’s promise was simple – for each pair of shoes bought, it would donate another pair of shoes to a child in need. To date, TOMS has given more than 35 million pairs of new shoes to children in need.

This year TOMS brought their global CSR campaign, which has been running for eight years, to the United Arab Emirates. The company has taken its original premise of “One Day without Shoes”, an event where participants do not wear shoes throughout the day in order to raise awareness for TOMS’ goal of giving shoes to children-in-need, online and onto social media.

The concept is a simple yet powerful initiative where they would like people to take a picture of their bare feet and share it on Instagram. With each picture shared, one pair of shoes will be given to a child in need. A simple picture tagged with #WithoutShoes can help the cause and provide a donation.

As of last Thursday afternoon, more than 296,000 children will benefit from the campaign, according to the company’s website. It’d be interesting to see how many UAE consumers got involved (I’ll see if I can get a response from the UAE retailer which has the TOMS franchise, Apparel Group.

The below are just a sample of the 300,000 plus images which have been generated over the past two weeks, both by consumers as well as celebrities and the media. Let’s hope other companies can learn from TOMS and how powerful a simple concept such as this can be for the brand, the consumer and for communities in need.

For every picture of feet that's posted #withoutshoes @toms is donating a pair to a child in need! #noexcuses #chooselove.

A post shared by So Cal Based~ FREE SHIPPING (@fabutiq) on

#WithoutShoes with great friends. 👣#BareFeet #MorningswithMelissa

A post shared by Kenneth-Melissa Paula Javier (@morningswithmelissa) on

Horyou and how one website is looking to bring corporates, charities and volunteers together

Horyou is a platform for social good for corporates, charities and the general public. If you have an idea you'd like to share or you'd like to volunteer go to www.horyou.com.

Horyou is a platform for social good for corporates, charities and the general public. If you have an idea you’d like to share or you’d like to volunteer go to http://www.horyou.com.

Technology can be a wonderful thing, especially when all of the good of the digital world is brought to bear on societal problems. One website I’ve recently been introduced to it Horyou (it’s pronounced Or-You). Horyou’s premise is simple – it is a platform for promoting interaction between corporates, charities and the general public. Horyou aims to transform ideas for social good into action through bringing together these different groups.

While you can check out the Horyou website here and also sign up, I wanted to know more. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Noof Al-Shammary, Marketing & Community Relations Manager for the region, to ask a couple more questions about Horyou and what it means for social causes.

Alex: So tell me, why is Horyou unique? What does it offer to individuals, charities and corporations?

Noof: Horyou is action-oriented platform. It is unique because it facilitates the evolution of ideas to actions with a social platform that offers all users (organization, personalities, members) a dedicated environment where they can share and promote positive actions, exchange quality content, and spark meaningful interactions. Our contribution to social networking is the gathering of a dedicated community of individuals looking to make a difference in their surroundings.

Alex: What is Horyou looking to achieve in the region?

Noof: Horyou is a universal platform. We believe in diversity, therefore everything you see on the platform is oriented to enhance positivity. We are working in different regions, including the Middle East, representing an opportunity to continue spreading the concept and practice of social networking with a purpose. We are actively working in both the non-profit and private sectors. Horyou is bringing a social platform to the forefront that can be used to highlight daily good worldwide.

Alex: How can we individuals, charities, and companies contribute and benefit from Horyou?

Noof: Any individual, companies, personalities, or organizations can contribute with their projects, positive actions, knowledge, interactions, and their willingness to be part of this global platform. Everybody’s contribution represents a step towards bringing more good to the world. Horyou is constantly looking for partners, supporters and individuals ready to take part in the promotion of social good.

If you’d like to know more about Horyou, the good people there have produced a short video which sums up their ideas and what they’re trying to achieve. I for one hope to play my part. Will you join me?

How to communicate conservation messages effectively – an example from Huvafen Fushi

There are some places and people in the world who just seem to do everything right. One of them is a resort in the Maldives named Huvafen Fushi. While we stayed at the resort because of its reputation, we came back with a wealth of knowledge about the island’s/company’s conservation efforts. We sponsored corals, we dived off the reefs to learn about its ecosystem, and we ended up getting out feet wet while feeding the island’s school of stingrays.

Why did we learn so much? Simply because we had so much fun while getting hands on with Huvafen Fushi’s staff. Learning is always best when it’s fun and involved, and I know a fair few companies who could learn from Huvafen Fushi. Have a look at the video and if you’re interested in adopting a coral then click through here (the hotel even sends you annual updates on how your coral is growing).

As a side thought it’s wonderful that the resort has reached out to so many guests this way, most of whom will be decision makers back in their home countries. What better way to enjoy a vacation that to learn about why and how we should take care of our environment?