PWD Part 2: (Cause-Related) Marketing

I wrote recently about the personal inspiration I found in Stories of Illness and Healing as a person with diabetes (PWD). This week, I also made connections between my illness and the problems of cause-related marketing illustrated by Pink Ribbons, Inc. (the book and film).

The campaign by the American Diabetes Association to Stop Diabetes is nowhere near as omnipresent as Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s campaign. However, they are beginning to employ some of the same tactics, and I can already perceive analogous problems.






First of all, they have a logo problem (just as Komen, and Breast Cancer more broadly, have been criticized for their pink ribbon logo). It’s a white  hand with a drop of bloog on one finger (representing the fact that diabetics must regularly check their blood sugar by performing finger sticks for a small blood sample). I walked into a store recently and saw the walls and windows plastered with this logo, representing small donations customers had made at checkout. I was taken aback by the both the picture and the message – that by donating a dollar, you are helping to stop diabetes. To me, it suggested that we HAVE the knowledge and power to stop diabetes, but we just aren’t implementing this knowledge correctly – that’s not the case. However, maybe I’m overreacting. Here’s a blog post describing why they chose the name “Stop Diabetes” f0r their campaign (or as they term it, movement). It doesn’t address the origin of the logo – I would assume it’s white because that is so often the “default,” without any consideration of the fact that such branding can subtly perpetuate the exclusion and marginalization of minorities.

What else?

There are now walks to “stop diabetes” just as there are walks “for the cure” –  Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes

“American Diabetes Month” is in November (following Breast Cancer awareness month in October).

And though I don’t know of any large cause-related marketing efforts undertaken by companies, the American Diabetes Association is home to “the nation’s leading diabetes charity gift shop” where they are selling the “Gift of Hope” – cards and gifts that also fund diabetes research!

Friends, family – please don’t send me one of those cards.

Like many PWD type 1, I am not a huge fan of the American Diabetes Association, given they focus their marketing campaigns and research on Type 2 diabetes. The intense focus on Type 2 diabetes is understandable – in the United States, out of 25.8 million people with diabetes in the United States, only between 800,00 and 3 million have type 1. In addition, type 2 diabetes is, to some degree, preventable, while the causes of Type 1 diabetes remain unknown (though it should be said that the causes of type 2 diabetes are still unclear) and therefore one can’t make medical decisions or lifestyle changes to avoid it. Yet the exclusive focus on Type 2 diabetes means that myths and misinformation about diabetes as a whole and, specifically, type 1 diabetes, abound. Like this

These are NOT diabetic socks. How do I know? Because there’s NO SUCH THING.

A look at the American Diabetes Association research page reveals that many of the recent discoveries have little to do with finding the cause of diabetes type 1 or a cure, but rather, dealing with complications that arise from having diabetes or the prevention methods/causes of type 2. There is a separate organization focused specifically on Diabetes type 1, but it does not have the support, funding, visibility or influence of the American Diabetes Association.

About Kaitlyn O'Hagan

Kaitlyn is a Macaulay Honors student at Hunter College, where she studies History and Public Policy.