I’m aware!

I get it. In fact, I got it a long time ago, but I keep getting reminded. Over and over and over again.

As you read this, October is long gone. And, with it, the wash of pink that’s dominated every product from yogurt to umbrellas, from iPad skins to bumper stickers. Pink everywhere.

As I write this, though, it’s October 19, the 10th anniversary of my sister’s passing. And so, yes, thank you, I’m intensely aware of the tragedy of breast cancer. She passed a mere three days before her 60th birthday, nine years and 364 days after her diagnosis. I’m still angry.

I wouldn’t normally broadcast something so achingly personal as a relative’s health, but these days, we can’t help but be confronted with the specter of critical health issues – and along with them, the related cause marketing. And lest you think I’m simply a cold-hearted curmudgeon, let me state, here and now, that I applaud the efforts of any company that tries to rally support for a cause. Sincerely. Ignorance is not bliss, and the old days of politely whispering “the C word” are, thankfully, behind us.

Cause-related fund-raising campaigns now are widespread; in this industry, many gorgeous and perfectly suitable plants have been dedicated to the pink cause. This is wonderful, and I think I can speak for thousands – millions – who’ve been affected personally or are related to a patient when I say that these programs and the funds they raise are appreciated.

But at the risk of sounding icy and brutal and inconsiderate and ungrateful and every other awful epithet you can toss my way – absolutely none of which I intend – I’ve had it up to here with “awareness.” We’re aware. What’s important is: What’s being done? And how effective is it?

When we select a plant to represent a specific cause, we’re helping to bring to light the fact that something’s wrong, and something needs to be done to fix it. In most cases, we’re hoping for a cure. And that takes money. Which is pretty hard to come by these days.

Charitable giving took a dramatic hit in 2009 with the financial collapse, and although it’s risen slightly since then, analysts don’t expect donors to contribute at the same levels as they did before the Great Recession. Parallel to the rest of the economy, charities – causes – are experiencing a long, slow recovery, and we’re all pinching pennies.

So let’s make absolutely the most of our cause marketing, and let’s emphasize its effectiveness. One extra bit of information can go a long way to support a cause and encourage participation – which translates to giving. “Buy this plant for XYZ Awareness!” Well, okay, I guess. “Buy this plant, and X dollars of your purchase price will support research … or fund treatment … .” Better. “Buy this plant, and X dollars will support … . And by the way, this program has already contributed XXX dollars to research for a cure.” I’ll take a dozen.

Sadly, chances are we all know someone who needs Pink Support. My other sister is currently undergoing treatment for the second time, and she’s pretty tired of pink, too. Frankly, she’d be happy with gray or blue or green, as long as it leads to a cure.

We’re all “aware.” In that respect, cause marketing is a blinding success. Now let’s support the cause – but emphasize the effect of our efforts.

I’ve had it up to here with “awareness.” We’re aware. What’s important is: What’s being done? And how effective is it?-or-