Back to Writing

In the Pink of Health

The Green Bay Packers played their rivals the Minnesota Vikings in what National Football League fans call the “black and blue” division because of the hard hitting play. But something was amiss on this Monday night for both teams wore jerseys with their club colors highlighted in bright pink. After a particularly brutal skirmish, television reporters swept into the locker room to talk to the swift and gargantuan about the smash mouth contest and one by one it started to happened. The herculean heroes of the day were overcome with emotion as they talked about their loved ones, wives and mothers and sisters and friends, who were fighting a fiercest of opponents – breast cancer. Something had changed in America. This most common and dreaded disease had gone from being something never discussed in mixed company to single color mega-brand – Pink. The Cure had become everyone’s battle.
Like most movements, it started out as something very small, intimate and in this case, tragic. A young woman from Peoria, Illinois named Susan Goodman Komen was diagnosed with the disease. Through a series of missteps her condition worsened and eventually consumed her. After her death, her younger sister Nancy Goodman Brinker founded the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization to accelerate research and treatment for breast cancer. Raising money for research and awareness started as a grass roots effort. Speeches turn into conversations which become communities that beget commitments. Foundations get formed and monies are allocated.
Sometimes luck shows her favor as ideas find their place in time. Betty Ford, the wife of the President, who less than a decade earlier went public about her mastectomy, pushed to make October National Breast Cancer Month. Millions of women identified with her story, like Susan’s, so personal and harrowing; yet, universal. Communities began holding the Komen Race for the Cure, a 5-kilometer fitness-walk to raise funds, celebrate survivors, and memorialize the fallen. These events became happenings like rock concerts drawing huge numbers of fully engaged participants…all wearing pink. As if to counteract the spread of the disease, pink began to pour out onto all manner of product and service. Estée Lauder, an organization started by a woman that sells products primarily to women, lead the charge with their pink ribbon crusade. Soon fashion designers and health food companies and even football teams joined the cause.
Subtly, a new model for organizations began to emerge. One that connected philanthropic motives to the requisite cash flow that comes from focused commerce. They call this hybrid approach “cause-related marketing.” The economic power of women, who make most household purchase decisions, has long been observed well above the glass ceilings in the towering heights of corporate America. By appealing to our most human sensibilities about the sanctity of life while donating a percentage of the revenues from “pink” products to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization these companies also grow and prosper. It turns out the old economists may have had it just right when they noted that a rising tide raises all boats.
Growth requires the synchronization of all the creative forces. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization started as Collaborate initiative that expanded through a Create and Compete phase before being fully realized as a fully scaled Control concern. Finally, it morphed into something greater than each of these individual forces. It became something new unto itself – a profitable not-for-profit. Creativity is not reserved solely for the aim of our efforts but often emerges as an enabler to others, and perhaps, greater forms of growth – a new way. Movements transform the one into the many who keep moving forward and bring others along the way.
Jeff DeGraff
Connect with me on Twitter
Join me on Facebook

Share this article