- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 26, 2005

These days, charity can be worn on your sleeve as well as on your torso, wrist, and just about every other body part.

Appeals by organizations to buy personal apparel on behalf of social good are growing, and the trend is apparently boundless. So-called cause marketing — exchanging guilt for goods — takes many forms and serves many needs.

If you are hoping to upgrade your wardrobe or simply add a bauble or two, it helps to like bright colors — namely red and pink. The two have been identified for many years with the two diseases that, more than any other, strike down women. The color red, of course, stands for heart disease, and pink — a traditional marker for girl babies — for breast cancer.

Whether a person actually feels better in a knee-length pale pink leather trench coat and a striped pink pompom scarf — Burberry’s classy offerings on behalf of breast cancer research and awareness — there is little question the wearer gets noticed. Such purchases can make the soul shine as well, since 30 percent of the coat’s retail price is donated by the company to breast cancer charities.

“Pink is very comforting and emotional, and people always love it,” says Eugenia Ulasewicz, president of Burberry USA, which last year donated $160,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Items are seasonal, with the $1,890 trench and $195 scarf available through Christmas this year in local stores and on the Web (www.burberry.com).

Target introduced an entire line of pink-themed products in October 2004 available in select stores; 100 percent of the net profits are pledged to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Also on the pink side of life is the online offering for a pair of pink Wellies from Scotland’s Hunter Rubber Co. Ltd., a purveyor of sporting gear. Sales of the $94 pink boots in the United States help fight breast cancer by benefiting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, according to the Web site (www.hunterboots.com). A junior version in pink, called Young Hunter, costs $49. “Buy Pink Wellies and give breast cancer the boot,” the site reads.

Who ever said altruism had to be dull?

Diseases mark the months — heart in February, breast cancer in October. That is when product advertising is heaviest and cause-related events fill calendars. Campaigns tend to slack off in the holiday season, but that need not stop enthusiasts from going online for some nifty cause-related purchases or iconic accessories for Hanukkah or Christmas.

Turn to www.totes-isotoner.com and you will find a practical pink ribbon-adorned umbrella for $24 that folds down to just over 6 inches long. The same site shows a pink women’s bedroom slipper ($20), a pink skull cap ($24), as well as gloves ($18) and a scarf ($34).

Lingerie, fragrances, sneakers, bracelets and even swimwear can be found with a “cause” label attached. Italian jewelry designer Roberto Coin in October brought out a YouthAIDS charm bracelet available in gold or silver for $850 and $350, respectively; a ruby-encrusted charm in the shape of Africa is attached highlighting the need to stamp out the disease on that continent (www.youthaids.org).

All profits from a four-inch magnolia pin made of silk on a velvet leaf — available from www.michelleroydesigns.com for $28 — go to the Red Cross to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina.

At www.gefiltepish.com, customers can purchase a number of baby gifts customized with Hebrew or Yiddish wording. A portion of the proceeds is used to welcome fragile Jewish newborns in hospitals.

Sixty percent of a $3 rubber bracelet from the Avon Foundation raises funds for Speak Out Against Domestic Violence. The adjustable bracelet is centered with a raised metal piece that says “Speak Out” (www.avonfoundation.org). The Avon Foundation also has an intriguing $3 pink-on-gold ribbon-around-the-world pin dedicated to its Breast Cancer Crusade, part of the foundation’s Walk Around the World campaign.

T-shirts are a constant. All profits from the sale of a $35 Ralph Lauren shirt (www.polo.com) go to model Naomi Campbell’s pet cause titled Fashion for Relief, dedicated to AmeriCares’ hurricane relief efforts. And Chili’s Grill & Bar restaurant chain recently moved its Create a Pepper to Fight Childhood Cancer campaign online (www.createapepper.com), allowing the public to order a $5 shirt to help benefit the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Yet again, imitation is proving to be the sincerest form of flattery. Breast cancer has been gaining so much attention through these methods that research and educational organizations associated with other forms of cancer are rising to the bait. Questions to be answered first, they say, are: Who is our audience? How does this or that product reach that market? and How effective will the awareness material be?

“I think now there is a little fatigue factor, at least in the fall, because of breast cancer, which has done a wonderful job,” says Sherry Salway-Black, the head of the Washington-based Ovarian Cancer National Alliance that is studying whether and how to jump on the bandwagon. She points to the existence of a Web site, www.causemarketingforum.com, to prove the popularity of the trend and its attraction for organizations such as her own.

Women do most of the shopping in the country, hence, most appeals have a distinctly feminine edge, although Lance Armstrong Foundation has a yellow wristband for sale in the wake of the cyclist’s own bout with testicular cancer long ago (www.store-laf.org).

February officially was named American Heart Month by proclamation signed by President Bush in 2002, but the American Heart Association was busy long before then dreaming up slogans on behalf of efforts to stamp out cardiovascular disease.

One of the most prominent is the Go Red For Women movement that has sold millions of tiny red dress pins and other apparel. Feb. 3, 2006, is the next National Wear Red Day for Women — a dress code signaling the participant is aware of the threat to the heart. The Go Red For Women online store (www.ShopGoRed.com) offers other consumer merchandise from supporting brand-name companies such as Swarovski crystals.

“Let’s say that 10 or 15 years ago nonprofits got out the message mostly by way of volunteers working in the community,” says Kathy Rogers, vice president of cause initiatives and integrated marketing for the Dallas-based American Heart Association. “The big word in the marketplace today is collaboration, which is needed to grab the attention of people. I think the trend will continue because it has been effective.”

The term “cause marketing” was coined 21 years ago by American Express, according to Carol Cone, head of a Boston-based marketing firm specializing in such programs for corporations and nonprofits. Avon got on to it early, beginning in the early 1990s, she says. Another effective name is the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation that sponsors Race for the Cure each fall. It was “founded by a woman whose sister had died of breast cancer,” she notes.

“I’m not so sure the consumer is fatigued,” Ms. Cone says. “[A campaign] takes a long time to penetrate. People think ‘I’m going to shop anyway and if it benefits someone, so much the better.’ Nobody goes shopping to say ‘I want to support a cause.’ It is added value.”

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