The Komen Backlash Escalates

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Women's Issues

This is turning into a first-rate watershed from which Komen cannot possibly survive in its current form.

It isn’t just the ties to right-wing whackjobs that’s a problem. In the past few hours the spotlight turned upon the Susan G. Komen Foundation has revealed it to be mostly a merchandising racket that has been spending much more money on executive salaries and self-promoting “awareness” events than on cancer research.

And Komen is going to lose its corporate sponsors, which means its done for. The big bucks haven’t been coming from individuals doing walk-a-thons, but through corporate merchandising deals. The walk-a-thons and other “awareness” events are less about raising money than about building the Komen brand to get the corporate sponsors on board. And I strongly suspect most of the women who have been supporting the walk-a-thons are middle- and upper-middle class ladies who may not be politically active, but they lean more liberal than conservative. DougJarvis Green-Ellis writes,

Right now, they get a lot of money from corporate sponsors—many of whom will drop them—and (I’m guessing here but I’m almost sure this is true) from affluent women in Westchester County, etc. That money is gone and it’s not coming back.

I was thinking of Westchester County women, too. The wealthier ones may be upper-class twits, but they are mostly progressive upper-class twits. Westchester has been voting Democratic since the 1990s, and Barack Obama got 63 percent of the Westchester vote in 2008. I’ll be very surprised if there is another Komen event here ever again. And without the support of that particular consumer demographic, the Komen brand won’t be worth much.

Yes, it can probably still do well with the Fox News and redneck crowd — older, less affluent — but the merchandising possibilities narrow considerably. A lot more women buy yogurt than attend gun shows.

The Yoplait Facebook page is running over with anti-Komen comments. But the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer page wants you to know it is completely unaffiliated with Komen. Komen is now officially radioactive.

Sarah Seltzer:

When the decision was announced over the Planned Parenthood email list (it had initially been broken a short while earlier), it felt like a crippling blow to women’s healthcare–and in some ways it still is. But the big story is actually how furious many Komen supporters are, how many have taken to the Internet, to petitions, and more to declare the end of their support and donations to Komen.

This is a big change, considering the fact that Komen was a beloved, celebrity-endorsed brand — and Planned Parenthood was increasingly under attack. But something shifted after this announcement: immediate analyses from social media in fact show that the number of angry comments against Komen and in favor Planned Parenthood vastly outnumbered the comments that applauded the decision — even as Komen began to frantically erase them on its Facebook page.

Marketing expert Kivi Leroux Miller calls Komen’s actions a “communications debacle unfolding before us,” writing, “At one point last night, I did a quick count and found the ratio of anti-Komen decisions to pro-Komen decisions to be about 80 to 1 on Twitter.” Miller has a blow-by-blow post on how the news broke and essentially how the Komen foundation utterly failed at every step to anticipate and properly deal with the outrage.

For all the noise they make, the Fetus People are a minority, and I strongly suspect most Americans would like them to crawl back under their rock.

Also — Komen’s excuse for defunding Planned Parenthood is that PP is under congressional investigation. Well, so is Penn State University, and Komen hasn’t cut off Penn State.

The big loser here may be breast cancer research. But a lot of articles written over the past few days have pointed out that throwing huge amounts of money at breast cancer hasn’t really done all that much to stop it.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. biggerbox  •  Feb 3, 2012 @12:05 pm

    It’s hard to imagine how an organization could destroy its key assets faster if they were trying. It’s worse than New Coke.

    Their major assets were the ability to attract ‘feel good’ feelings from key marketing demographics, and skill at selling that to companies that want to use the ‘feel good’ association to help sell their products. Now, many of the people in those demo’s have ‘feel angry’ associations, which no company will want.

    Even if they wanted to stop dealing with Planned Parenthood, they could have done it much more smoothly, and at least had a rationale that made sense and which they could stick to consistently. It’s clear they hadn’t imagined what the effect of this move might be, and they are dealing like amateurs with the firestorm of bad publicity.

  2. maha  •  Feb 3, 2012 @12:19 pm

    I hope this continues for awhile. Politicians might sit up and take notice.

  3. muldoon  •  Feb 3, 2012 @12:52 pm

    News over at Crooks and Liars is that Komen has caved and will return to funding Planned Parenthood.

    Must have shot themselves pretty much big time.

  4. Rob  •  Feb 3, 2012 @1:03 pm

    Confirming muldoon’s post: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2012/02/report-komen-reverses-decision-to-cut-planned-parenthood-funding/1?csp=34news

    I do hope that there is some lasting effect WRT the super minority status of the right-to-lifers, but I kinda doubt it. America as a whole seems to have a very short term memory.



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