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Komen Foundation does a 180

Gregory Warner Feb 3, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: The world’s biggest breast cancer charity did a very high-profile about face today. After a three-day media and Internet uproar, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation said it’s not going to cut funding to Planned Parenthood as it had announced.

Komen has a lot to lose: It’s turned the pink ribbon into an international brand behind billions in charitable donations. But Gregory Warner reports from the health desk at WHYY in Philadelphia, this story put Big Pink under the microscope.

Gregory Warner: That pink ribbon wasn’t always pink. It started out salmon-colored. Then the marketers got on the case.

Karuna Jaggar: Focus groups revealed that pink was soothing and feminine and uplifting, and so the pink ribbon was born.

Karuna Jaggar at Breast Cancer Action says it may be too soothing. The symbol that blesses everything from Kentucky Fried Chicken to tires to yogurt to perfume has become synomoyous with saving women’s lives. Big Pink, she says, means don’t ask where the money’s going.

Lucy Bernholz: Komen has been incredibly successful with raising awareness for breast cancer, but they’ve pinkified everything.

Lucy Bernholz is a philanthropy expert and author. She says more than anything the pink ribbon brand conveys trust. And if people or corporations move away from Susan G. Komen, it could mean a big hit to breast cancer funding. Or it could mean donors ask tougher questions about research and mammograms and cancer rates.

Bernholz: If you’re just buying a pink yogurt? You don’t have to think that hard about this.

But if you’re selling that yogurt, you might.

In Philadelphia, I’m Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

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