Hiding Politics in Plain SightCause Marketing, Corporate Influence, and Breast Cancer Policymaking

Hiding Politics in Plain SightCause Marketing, Corporate Influence, and Breast Cancer Policymaking

Patricia Strach

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780190606848

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract

Faced with a stigmatized disease shrouded in silence, in the 1980s and 1990s breast cancer activists with business backgrounds partnered with corporations to sponsor runs and cause-marketing products, a portion of the proceeds of which benefit breast cancer. Branding breast cancer as “pink”—hopeful, positive, uncontroversial—on the products Americans see every day, they generated a pervasive understanding of breast cancer that is widely shared by the public and embraced by policymakers. Clearly, they have been successful: today, more Americans know the pink ribbon is the symbol of breast cancer than know the name of the US vice president. But it is not clear at what cost. Hiding Politics examines the costs of employing market mechanisms—especially cause marketing—as a strategy for change. Market mechanisms do more than raise awareness of issues or money to support charities: they also affect politics. Using original survey data, content analysis, and a case study of breast cancer, this book shows that cause marketing addresses particular kinds of issues (tangible social welfare concerns) and does so in particular ways (as positive and consensual), ultimately shaping public understanding. Corporate-connected activists who employ these strategies can dominate an issue, marginalizing other activists who have broader, more controversial definitions of problems and who want bigger, more comprehensive government solutions. Industry and corporate-connected individuals market issues, like breast cancer, widely, shaping public understanding and ultimately public policy. But framed as consensus-based social issues rather than contentious political issues, they essentially hide politics in plain sight.