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Pink Hurts


At the Harvard Business Review, Erasmus University marketing professor Stefano Puntoni says that seeing the color pink makes women less likely to think they'll get breast cancer, and therefore less likely to contribute money to cancer research. Puntoni showed a series of women ads dominated by the color pink and then asked them to rate how likely they thought they were to get breast cancer or give money to causes for curing cancer. The women shown the pink ads were less likely than the control group to think they'd get cancer or give money to find cures, Puntoni found. The researcher says it isn't the color itself that's hurting the cause, but that the color is associated with a "gender cue," symbolizing all things feminine, while also representing a threat, cancer. "In psychology, there's a lot of literature on defensive responses. How do we deal with threatening ideas, with things that are existentially difficult to comprehend? What happens is, these set off very strong denial mechanisms. By adding all this pink, by asking women to think about gender, you're triggering that," Puntoni tells the Harvard Business Review. Instead of doing what a marketing brand is supposed to do, which is associate a cause with a symbol, the gender cues surrounding the color pink are making it a less effective marketing tool for cancer causes, he adds, saying, "We would argue that the use of all those things is counterproductive to the goals of breast cancer fundraising."

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