October may be the season of cozy jumpers, scary movies and pumpkin-spiced everything, but most importantly it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer, with one in seven women in the UK expected to develop the disease during their lifetime according to Breast Cancer Now. By increasing awareness, it is hoped that both women and men become more attentive to the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and spot it while it is more easily treatable.
Brands looking to join the movement must tread carefully due to the sensitivity of the subject. Over the years, many have been accused of exploiting the disease by pink-washing. Essentially, this involves turning a product pink and donating a small percentage of sales to breast cancer charities (in order to increase overall sales of selected products).
With this in mind, I’ve compiled nine particularly powerful breast cancer awareness campaigns mostly chosen for their messaging and creativity, rather than product promotion. Let’s get started!
Grab life by the boobs (2019)
UK breast cancer charity Coppafeel launched the ‘Grab Life by the Boobs’ campaign earlier this year. This forms part of their ongoing efforts to encourage young people to check their breasts regularly as, while less probable than for those aged over 50, symptoms can occur at any age (and particularly among those with a family history of cancer).
The ad is uplifting and optimistic, featuring real young people who have been affected by breast cancer. You can learn more about their personal stories via a series of short video clips on the Coppafeel website.
This isn’t the first great ad that Coppafeel has created, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Check it before it’s removed (2016)
The Pink Ribbon Foundation nearly broke social media in 2016 with its campaign that was ‘designed to be deleted’. A series of images posted to the charity’s various social channels went viral before platform moderators began censoring them for violating strict nudity policies.
These images contained a diverse group of women each exposing a naked breast alongside the clever double entendre ‘check it before it’s removed’. Users were encouraged to share the images through their accounts as quickly and far as possible before their inevitable deletion.
Several high-profile celebrities and influencers helped spread the campaign to a larger outreach, including singer Cascada and supermodel Franziska Knuppe.
The charity claimed that a total of 29 million people were reached across various social platforms, contributing to a 27,984% uplift of traffic to their website. Now that’s what I call raising awareness.
Take a look at this video to find out more about the campaign’s impact:
Know your lemons (2017)
Initially created by designer Corrine Beaumont while studying for her doctorate in Design and Healthcare, the striking ‘Know Your Lemons’ infographic went viral in the early months of 2017.
After losing two grandmothers and a friend to breast cancer, she dedicated her time to producing easy-to-read graphics that would help women recognise common symptoms.
Instead of using images of real breasts – which could strike a little too close to home – Beaumont altered images of lemons arranged inside an egg box. This clever substitution clearly refers to a woman’s anatomy without overwhelming those who may not be as receptive to the idea of self-examination.
Furthermore, the fruit widens the image’s reach, as it is more likely to be displayed in public places than a medically precise diagram. Speaking to Design Curial in 2017, Beaumont explained, “By using a substitute for a breast that’s not connected to the body, such as a lemon, then it makes it possible to do a lot of teaching because it’s a strong metaphor that’s not already used.”
The #ChangeAndCheck campaign encourages women around the UK to adorn the changing rooms of retail outlets with stickers depicting nine signs of breast cancer.
Originally conceived by breast cancer survivor Helen Addis, the movement was taken to new heights after featuring on the daytime TV show Lorraine.
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We’re spreading our lifesaving #ChangeAndCheck message across the UK this Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Start the month by taking five minutes to check your boobs for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer – it could save your life. . . Learn how to check your breasts with Dr Hilary’s demonstration via the link in our bio. . . . . . #BreastCancerAwareness #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth @thetittygritty @lorrainekellysmith
Helen herself appeared on the programme with other women who attribute their survival to the #ChangeAndCheck stickers they encountered.
Since then, the show has urged its loyal viewers to promote #ChangeAndCheck even further, with additional content such as Lorraine’s Boob Bus which is touring the nation during October.
Sinead, Sally and Amy are just three of the women who received early breast cancer diagnoses after seeing our #ChangeAndCheck stickers. This morning they share a heartfelt thank you to @RealTittyGritty for creating the campaign that is helping to save lives. #Lorraine pic.twitter.com/y4gLOYYfAF
— Lorraine (@lorraine) October 1, 2019
This campaign is a great example of using popular platforms and personalities to help extend awareness across a wider audience.
Lux soap with a lump
Unilever’s Lux soap brand, the number one best selling soap in India, has developed a bar of soap with a visible, tactile lump.
Intended as a daily reminder for women to check their breasts while showering, the added lump has been carefully designed not to dissolve over time with the rest of the bar, improving the longevity of its core purpose.
The campaign was aired in India, where a reported 75% of women avoid self-examining their breasts despite it being the most common form of cancer within the country’s major cities. It is thought that a lack of awareness and available screening may be major causes of this inaction, according to Breast Cancer India.
Lux has certainly strived to strengthen awareness by creating this informative, yet sensitive ad and innovative product.
Your Man Reminder (2011)
Rethink Breast Cancer took a risk in 2011 by launching a cheeky and humourous ad to tackle the topic and promote its self-examination app ‘Your Man Reminder’.
The ad begins by resembling one of those cheesy, overly-scripted health advice videos that we’ve all seen in a waiting room at a doctor’s or dentist’s surgery.
That is until Dr Rothaford explains, ‘studies show that women are more likely to watch a video if it features a hot guy’ before handing over to a number of said ‘hot guys’ to demonstrate the checks.
The video has reached 7.5million views on YouTube at the time of writing, proving that humour makes for a memorable and effective campaign, despite the gravity of the subject.
It’s worth waiting for the great twist right at the end!
Everyone can help someone (2019)
This year, M&S have partnered with Breast Cancer Now to produce a series of short clips designed to be shared on their social channels.
Real women who have been affected by breast cancer share their experiences of coping with the disease and finding support. Emotive and comforting, these posts have accumulated significant traction on social, attracting tens of thousands of views each on Instagram alone.
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Farida and Julie, both from Manchester became friends after breast cancer brought them together. They’ve since created a comedy and theatre show inspired by their shared experience of diagnosis, treatment and beyond. Visit our website to see more inspiring stories of support and find out how you can help too.
Clicking through to M&S’s website, users can find out more about clips that resonate most with them, including in-depth interviews with the women involved in the campaign.
While this isn’t the most original way to raise awareness of the disease, there is a real authenticity in the finished content. It has clearly been carefully directed to connect with the brand’s core demographic.
In October last year, Serena Williams posted a poignant video of herself singing a rendition of Divinyls’ ‘I Touch Myself’ as part of the #ITouchMyselfProject in association with Berli Australia. It has over 514,000 views to date.
The story behind this newly recorded version is a powerful one. In 2013, the lead vocalist of the rock band, Chrissy Amphlett, lost her battle with breast cancer. The hit song then became an anthem for breast cancer awareness and the importance of checking for early signs of the disease.
The simplicity of the video is what makes it so intimate and so memorable.
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This Breast Cancer Awareness Month I’ve recorded a version of The Divinyls global hit “I Touch Myself” to remind women to self-check regularly. _ Yes, this put me out of my comfort zone, but I wanted to do it because it’s an issue that affects all women of all colors, all around the world. Early detection is key – it saves so many lives. I just hope this helps to remind women of that. _ The music video is part of the I Touch Myself Project which was created in honor of celebrated diva, Chrissy Amphlett, who passed away from breast cancer, and who gave us her hit song to remind women to put their health first. The project is proudly supported by @BerleiAus for Breast Cancer Network Australia. _ Visit the link in my bio to find out more. #ITouchMyselfProject #BerleiAus #BCNA #DoItForYourself
First haircut (2015)
In this moving campaign, cosmetics chain Ulta Beauty tackles the physical and emotional effects of hair loss on women going through chemotherapy.
Many women struggle coming to terms with losing hair through cancer and feel that it dramatically affects their outward beauty. Ulta Beauty aims to rebuff this stigma in this particular campaign. There’s a clever use of subtitling and raw imagery in this short video which ends on an uplifting note.
It’s just one of the several videos Ulta Beauty have produced since partnering with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 2009. So far, they have raised $2.5 million simply by adding a ‘give’ button to their online checkout and encouraging donations in their retail stores.