- They have a very clear and focused mission. The foundation exists to support women with breast cancer and stop women from dying from breast cancer. Every single woman I know has either had or been close to someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is a mission universal to women everywhere.
- It is a brand run by, driven by, and supported by women. Are there super guys who are involved as well? Absolutely. But the heart and soul and machine that drives this organization are women.
- An inspirational figure head. "Susan G. Komen fought breast cancer with her heart, body and soul. Throughout her diagnosis, treatments, and endless days in the hospital, she spent her time thinking of ways to make life better for other women battling breast cancer instead of worrying about her own situation."
- A powerful brand identity everyone could relate to. When you say, "I am a supporter of Susan G. Komen," you are saying "I am taking an active role in supporting women with breast cancer. I am a powerful force working to prevent women from dying from breast cancer. I am joining with other like-minded women and men to create a positive change."
Recently, the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced they were withdrawing their funding of Planned Parenthood. That does not change any of the above points…..except for the last one. And therein lies the whole problem.
Brand is all about self-identity
People don't buy brands, they join them. When you drive a BMW that makes a statement about who you are. When you wear a designer suit, that telegraphs a message to the world. When you pull out your iPhone, it makes a statement about who you are and what you care about. (Apple knows this better than almost anyone, which is why they have one of the most powerful brands in the world.)
When you publically support the Susan G. Komen Foundation, it makes a statement about who you are.
The reason for pulling out of Planned Parenthood
The Susan G. Komen Foundation cited this as the reason for pulling their funding of Planned Parenthood:
Leslie Aun, a spokesperson for Komen, told the Associated Press that Komen crafted new guidelines that prohibits organizations under investigation from the government from receiving financial support.
Planned Parenthood is the subject of investigations by Republican members of Congress for allegedly using federal dollars toward providing abortions. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chair of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, opened an investigation into the matter in 2011 but nothing has yet come of it.
A statement by Komen to CBS News denied that the charity was politically pressured. "Grant making decisions are not about politics," Komen wrote. The statement also said the organization did make changes to its grant-making process and "implemented more stringent eligibility and performance criteria."
Well, if you've been on the Internet, you've seen the tidal wave of reaction, the vast majority of which is claiming the decision was politically motivated.
Brands aren't defined by reality. Brands are defined by perceptions.
It doesn't matter whether the decision was politically motivated or not. The perception (on both sides) is that it was.
So here's the problem for the Susan G. Komen Foundation – what it means to be a supporter has changed.
When you put on that pink T-shirt, when you run in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®, when you say, "I am a proud supporter of Susn G. Komen" it does not mean the same thing as it did a week ago. (Which may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your political and religious beliefs). People are going to make assumptions about you that may or may not be true.
This isn't about the reality of the situation, it's about the perception of the situation. Fair or unfair, the divisive rhetoric of politics has now been associated with the brand. And that's never good.
Whoever is the brand manager for Susan G. Komen has some really interesting challenges ahead. I will be watching closely in the coming weeks to see what happens.