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The Colorful Secret Women Don't Want Us To Know

IStock_000004182357XSmall This is just a short post about a brilliant viral marketing campaign that is happening right now which you might have already seen. Women around the world are just posting a color in their Facebook status updates and sharing it with their girlfriends only. The whole thing is designed to raise awareness about breast cancer and (presumably) to remind women to get examined. the colors are meant to be what color bra you are wearing at that particular moment. There are at least three reasons this is turning into a highly viral thing:

  1. It is a secret. Keeping this limited to women only helps make it something women are more likely to pass along.
  2. It needs explanation. Unlike many other things that you get right away, seeing just a color and nothing else in a status update is cryptic. It invites you to ask why … and therefore gets you talking about it.
  3. It isn't branded or monetized. The marketer in me immediately looks for the brand or organization behind this, but it seems that no one knows – and therefore this is already managing to spread to a level that perhaps would have been impossible if it was claimed by any one organization.

As a man, I don't know much about this campaign, never saw one of the status updates, and have no way to participate … but here I am writing about the marketing lesson it offers anyway. If the goal was to raise awareness about breast cancer, I'd say it's working like a charm.

14 thoughts on “The Colorful Secret Women Don't Want Us To Know”

  1. I can appreciate the viral and secretive nature of this campaign, but to say it is achieving its goal of raising awareness of breast cancer is off the mark.

    For every bra color Facebook status update I’ve seen, I’ve seen at least one confused comment following – many from men, who are excluded from this activity. As a woman, I’ve come to figure out what these status updates mean even without being included in the messages arriving in many Facebook inboxes, but it took at least two days and several guesses before I finally saw an explanatory comment. Up to then, I wondered if my friends were describing the color of their underwear, their prom dress or even their ideal bridesmaid color – none of which raised my awareness about the true cause.

    Then, I saw the best status update of all: –Friend’s name removed– dislikes the bra color statuses more than I can explain, so instead, support breast cancer research:

    Now we’re talking. She’s cut through the mystery, exposed the underlying cause and provided a DIRECT way to support the cause. That raised my awareness.

  2. I agree with Kara, most of the “awareness” was simply in figuring out what was going on, rather than hitting home the real message. People are more talking about the strategy, rather than the purpose. Awareness has many levels, in the case of a cause-driven movement, it should always be with a focus of going beyond visibility awareness to messaging awareness. This campaign hasn’t achieved the latter. As a woman, I also found it particularly irritating that no one linked to resources that could actually accomplish education and empowerment.

  3. Kara & Maria – both great points and comments, thanks for taking the time to write them here. The tie-in to the cause was certainly missing in this – but not knowing who was behind it, it’s also impossible to know who to blame or if it was just someone who started the meme because they thought it would be fun. Either way, I think you both point to the fact that perhaps the real lesson is to look at this as an example of how a message or thought can go rapidly viral … and not as an example of cause marketing done right because of the failings you rightly raise. Thanks again for posting, I love comments like yours which force all of us (including me) to think a bit more deeply about a campaign like this and what it can really teach us.

  4. I posted something similar to Kara’s and Maria’s comments on FB & Twitter today. I loved the idea and the humor behind it, but as a fellow marketer I like to see the effect that such viral campaigns have. After a brief spurt through my network – with confused men and funny comments – it seemed to disappear.

    There was the occasional mention that it was intended to raise awareness of breast cancer, but I thought, ‘what does raise awareness mean?’ What does it instigate people to do?

    One friend later said she hopes people use it as a way to get to breast cancer awareness sites. I’m very familiar with Susan G. Komen because we did a campaign with them in October with one of my clients, but I found a lot of people in my organization didn’t. I’d wish that whoever initiated it, whether they revealed themselves or not, would have instructed to post a link to a breast cancer research site of your choice once people start questioning/commenting/explaining. They could link to a donation page or to a page of tips for self-care and early detection. I feel like that would have kept the discussion going and provided the value of action after the initial peaked curiosity.

    Finally, one of my friends on Facebook posted this link:

    I shared it today on my FB page with the following comment: “What if everyone had posted this with their bra color? What if we could know how much Komen raised in a single day from text donations, based on this campaign?”

    It’s definitely intriguing that it came from an unknown source – but ultimately I’d rather it be connected to somewhere people can take action. And if it’s just a “brand ambassador” for Komen, not connected to them and just wants to help, wouldn’t that be even more interesting?

    I think where the real power of the campaign begins is in the continuing attention it receives (including this very blog). Getting us to talk about it beyond the single day of the campaign is how we’ll use the lessons of the campaign to move from awareness to action.

  5. Like Kara, Maria and Tyler above me, my first instinct was to pooh-pooh the fact that this doesn’t do anything – just seems like a naughty, intriguing viral that is pointless.

    I’m reminded of something that happened about a decade back in India. One of India’s leading mango drink brand, Frooti, decided to relaunch with a big bang campaign. They launched a massive teaser in mainstream media (print, TV, billboards, you name it) with just the information about a character named Digen Verma – the spots talked about how Digen spends his time, who his friends are and more such blah.

    A day before Frooti ad agency (Everest) had planned the big unveil, The Times of India swooped in with an almost-full page ad which just had a huge family photo, and said that this family, which includes Digen Verma, in 2nd row, 3rd person is a loyal reader of their newspaper! But what happened at least a fortnight before this is more interesting…

    I was discussing Digen Verma with my cousin brother since he’s in advertising. He said he’ll give me a inside scoop and said Digen is nothing but ‘Digital Generation’ and is intended as the launch of Apple Computers in India. He was of course pulling my leg, but gullible me went around mailing all and sundry that I knew what Digen Verma was all about…it spread so well, just on email, even back in year 2000, that after a 20 day period, came back to me as a chain mail with tons and tons of mail ID in ‘To 🙂

    So, could this cancer awareness thingy been manufactured by someone, who thought this naughty, intriguing pointless viral could be put to some use – just a thought!

  6. I think Kara and Maria got it right with this one. As a viral campaign the only way it’s bringing awareness is apparently by being a nuisance. I have many friends that have posted their “color” to all friends, not just other females,only to be bombarded by comments about how ridiculous the campaign is and how it’s actually deterred people from the cause because they dislike the campaign so much.

    I personally was baffled by this new phenomenon for several weeks until someone explained it to me. I would think if they really wanted to raise awareness they would do something such as stating their color and including a link people could click on with details.

    Though I believe in the cause I can’t say I’m a fan of the campaign.

  7. While Kara and Maria have very valid points, I think the buzz that this is creating outside of where the colors are being posted is accomplishing the intended job. The fact that it has been picked up by numerous blogs and news programming, I would say this ends up being a success.


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