Monday, October 20, 2014

Taking Aim at Pinkwashing

By Rose Strong

It’s mid-October and those awful pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness are splattered everywhere. Everyone is wearing pink, from the high school football players to the check-out person at your local grocery store. Oh, and don’t get me started on the retail industry!

Perhaps I need to give a disclosure here. My partner of 28 years was diagnosed in 1997 with stage-three ductal carcinoma, in the left breast. She had a mastectomy with the removal of lymph nodes, chemotherapy, became bald for several months and was declared cancer free, but took Tamoxifen as a preventative against recurrence for five years.

After five years of no cancer, you’re in what they call “the safe zone,” a sort of milestone. It’s rare for the breast cancer to return after that time. In 2010, her cancer returned. We have lived with metastatic breast cancer as a chronic illness every day for the past four years, but thanks to the pharmaceutical gods, she’s on Arimidex to keep her cancer at bay.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for charitable giving. I’ve worn my share of pink ribbons, walked the charity walks and drove the BMWs for the Drive for the Cure several years in a row since we were given the diagnosis 17 years ago. I donate whenever I can, both locally and globally to those charities which make an impact, little by little as my pocketbook will allow.

However, businesses that put a pink ribbon marketing program into effect for the cure of breast cancer simply for the purpose of gaining a new demographic and more dollars make me seethe with rage. It’s been termed “pinkwashing” by Breast Cancer Action, a group that considers itself the watchdog of breast cancer charities.

The latest pinkwashing to make news is the recent “partnership” the Susan G. Komen Foundation has formed with Baker Hughes, the international hydraulic fracturing, or fracking company. The corporation is going to distribute 1,000 drill bits to be used for fracking as part of the project, “Doing Our Bit for the Cure.”

As you can imagine, it’s not gone over well. Fracking waste is known to carry carcinogens and has been shown to contaminate public water supplies and the air.

The Komen Foundation is not the only one in the industry to resort to pinkwashing. So, while you’re shopping for groceries, new bath towels, or running shoes, how do you know that your purchase of their product emblazoned with a pink ribbon is really donating money to a worthy cause? It’s hard to say exactly, but after reading this article by Amy McCarthy for Bustle.com, it would be hard not to be cynical.

Who’s Doing the Watching?

How do you find out about the charities accepting donations for breast cancer research and advocacy? Well, since breast cancer is only one drop in a bucketful of charities that need our financial support, here are a few sites that help sort out the good, the bad and the ugly:

  • Check out Guidestar.com, a comprehensive website that allows you to research any charity or other nonprofit before you donate. The site gives information on how to choose a charity, give to one that uses your money judiciously and offers direct reviews from those who have donated or been involved with the charity.
  • BCAction.org is the watchdog of all breast cancer charities. It is blunt and intelligent and questions everything about the breast cancer industry and gets the answers we all need. ThinkBeforeYouPink.org is a project of Breast Cancer Action started in response to the onslaught of pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness.
  • CharityNavigator.org has a page dedicated to giving to charities and the listing of 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors is excellent.
  • The Better Business Bureau offers a comprehensive 20-point rating system for charities throughout the United States that answer their requests for information.
  • GreatNonProfits.org is another excellent source for finding charities you wish to donate to with positive records for making an impact on the populations they serve. 

Who Meets the Standards?

Since it’s October and awareness is key, I’ve  included only breast cancer organizations here, but several groups above provide information on any charity you’d be interested in within the U.S.

  • National Breast Cancer Foundation works at saving women’s lives by providing mammograms, early detection and education. Since 2005, the organization has provided 340,000 mammograms via its hospital network, especially for women who are uninsured or underinsured who otherwise would go without preventative care.
  • Young Survival Coalition, Inc. is an organization for those under age 40 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and the special struggles they face.
  • The Breast Cancer Fund strives to educate about and eliminate our risks within our everyday lives by becoming aware of the toxic chemicals surrounding us in our environment.   

If you can get past the sea of pink and the shocking statistics used to pull on your heartstrings, you can be sure your money goes where it’s going to make the best impact, regardless of what charity you’re inclined to support.

I’d enjoy hearing your stories of charitable giving. Do you give at work? Ever drop change in a bucket or do you research the charity of your choice? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand, That is the Question

By Megan Quinn

It’s funny how a new look can change the entire feel of a company. Sometimes a business wants a change – whether it is a flashy or subtle one. Starbucks made a slight change to their logo in 2011, but it’s barely noticeable (in my opinion). They opted to keep their signature mermaid symbol, while making some updates to it, and removing the words “Starbucks Coffee” from their logo. In short – their company name in the logo was unnecessary because their brand is internationally recognizable.

Sometimes logo changes are not enough. That was the case with Hotmail. Launched in 1996, this email service has been around for almost 20 years and was one of the first web-based email services. However, Microsoft decided to reinvent Hotmail during the summer of 2013 to become Outlook.com. Hotmail users still got to keep the “@hotmail.com” address, plus their contacts and passwords, but significant external changes took place.

“Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve completed upgrading all Hotmail customers to Outlook.com. Coupled with the growing organic excitement for Outlook.com, this has pushed us to over 400 million active Outlook.com accounts, including 125 million that are accessing email, calendar and contacts on a mobile device using Exchange ActiveSync,” Microsoft said in a blog post on the day it finished the upgrade. The Outlook.com integration process took only six weeks and was completed on May 2, 2013.

Not only did Microsoft’s Hotmail rebrand, but they also backed up their decision with plenty of ways to keep their customers happy and loyal while gaining new ones. Sounds like rebranding and updating was their key to success.

Not every company needs to rebrand. Sometimes it only requires a surface change. In this case, Microsoft’s Hotmail was due for a huge upgrade – and the company delivered.

Another lesser known success story is that of Burberry, the clothing, scarf and handbag brand. Their infamous checkered pattern actually was digging them into a deep hole. The pattern had become associated with hooligans in the UK who acted violently at soccer matches. A pattern that was once seen as a status symbol was now outlawed, so to speak.

Burberry was in serious need of a rebranding effort to keep their customers. They decided to hire young celebrities to endorse their products and also revamped their trench coats. By staying in the loop and realizing their brand was being connected with the wrong crowd, they kept their successful name.

Sometimes rebranding doesn’t fit in with the company's ultimate needs and goals, or maybe it’s just not necessary, if customers are so accustomed to the old logo. Business won’t exactly improve or could stay the same. There are currently some new brand logos out there that I’m not too fond of, but I still give those brands business because I like their products or services.

Are there any new rebranding efforts you feel made a critical difference for companies? Are there any branding schemes you wish had never changed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Finding the Recipe for Business Success at Breakfast

By Sarah Larson


French toast casserole with apples, walnuts and maple syrup. Quiche. Bacon. Fresh berries. Scones. Sparkling apple cider.

That is how we kicked off a recent workday at Furia Rubel. It was the third breakfast celebration we’ve had in recent months to mark the birthdays of our team members, and each one has been more fun than the last.

But these breaks from the workday aren’t just a luxury, which many companies believe they can ill afford. For the rest of the day after our breakfasts, I noticed our team members smiling more, coordinating efforts better, and just generally being more productive.

That’s no accident.

Fun time at work is an investment in the people and the culture of your company, and that investment pays more dividends in the long run than can easily be quantified.

People are pretty smart – or, at least, pretty attuned to self-preservation. Employees who are treated like interchangeable cogs on a wheel know that they are easily replaced – and they function accordingly.

On the other hand, creating a true team atmosphere, with people who actually like and respect each other, is more likely to foster happy employees who believe in the company’s mission and see themselves as important ingredients to its success.

You don't have to be Google, with free meals, a Lego play station and Broadway-themed conference rooms, to make your workplace into a place your employees want to be. A few creative ideas, some genuine interest in your employees' lives, and, yes, some food, can go a long way to creating an enjoyable workplace.

Plus, any excuse to start a work day with bacon is just a good day, all around.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Return to Sender 10 Months Later?

By Rose Strong

Have you ever wished you could follow a letter from the time you sent it to the time it arrives in the mailbox of your intended recipient? It might be an interesting journey.

As a communications firm, Furia Rubel is ready quite early with our holiday cards and video greetings. We plan for them to go out in the mail about three weeks before the actual holiday.

Last year, our greetings were sent out on or about Dec. 9 from the Philadelphia postal hub. As happens with any mass mailing, some addressees are no longer at the address we have on file. We typically receive these cards back, investigate for the updated address, and resend. This process usually takes 10 to 14 days.

However, we recently received one of our 2013 holiday cards back, marked Return to Sender / Unable to Forward / Not Deliverable As Addressed - more than 250 days after it had been mailed.

Please indulge me as I give a quick and brief history lesson about the United States Postal Service. The organization began as the United States Post Office, a governmental agency first suggested by publisher William Goddard in 1774 as a way to get information out to citizens without the prying eyes of the British postal inspectors. The USPS began moving the mail on July 26, 1775, as approved by the Second Continental Congress. Benjamin Franklin was appointed its first postmaster general.

Upon the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, the U.S. Postal Service functioned as a regular, tax-supported, agency of the federal government. Still an agency of the federal government today, in 1982 U.S. postage stamps became “postal products,” and the USPS now is funded solely by sales of stamps, shipping and other services.

As of this writing, there are more than 30,000 post offices, stations and branches throughout the United States to handle domestic mail. If you take a gander at the USPS website’s ‘About’ page, you can see the numbers regarding mail volume, the people involved, fleet of vehicles and the department’s yearly budget.  Here are just a few of the numbers, based on 2013 data, that I found interesting:
  • 152.9 million — total number of delivery points nationwide
  • 158.4 billion — number of mail pieces processed
  • 211,654 — number of vehicles — one of the largest civilian fleets in the world
  • 1.2 billion — number of miles driven each year by mail carriers and truck drivers
  • 38.8 million — number of address changes processed
  • If it were a private sector company, the U.S. Postal Service would rank 45th in the 2013 Fortune 500.
  • In the 2013 Global Fortune 500 list, the U.S. Postal Service ranked 140th.
From those fine facts, it can be concluded that the United States Postal Service is a colossal organization. So, one long lost letter in that sphere of people and mechanical processes shouldn’t be surprising.

I took our returned card to my local post office and asked the postmistress why it could have taken so long to come back to our office. She made a copy and said she’d pass it along to her regional office and see if they had an answer.

Checking in a few days later, the postmistress told me that there was no conclusive answer.

“It could have fallen off the belt in the sorting facility and gotten stuck, and someone found it when the machine jammed or they cleaned and just sent it along on its way,” she said.

Sometimes one doesn’t get answers to the mysteries they question. I guess that’s all there really is to Return to Sender - unless you’re an Elvis fan.

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