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It’s Just A Little Bottle of Perfume, Or Is It?

Sometimes those of us in the breast cancer blogosphere are accused of taking things too seriously and maybe we do at times; with our permanently altered viewpoint from cancer world, it’s hard sometimes not to. How can you possibly be upset about a tiny bottle of perfume you might wonder?

Last week when I heard about the latest “round of discontent,” I thought, really? It’s just a little bottle of perfume isn’t it? Is it really that big a deal? Well no, in and of itself, it isn’t such a big deal. It is just a little bottle of perfume and purchasing this particular fragrance and dabbing on a little won’t really matter. Or will it?

For those of you who are unaware, the latest venture by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to hit the market and stir things up a bit in cancer world is a new fragrance marketed in a lovely pinkish/lavenderish bottle which, of course, is also adorned with the infamous pink ribbon. The name of the fragrance is Promise Me. It’s supposed to be yet another tribute to Nancy Brinker’s (founder of Komen) late sister who died of metastatic breast cancer. It’s meant to symbolize the promise one sister made to the other about doing everything she could to end breast cancer. As an added bonus, when you purchase the fragrance, it also comes with a pink rubber bracelet you can wear “to help you remember promises you have made.”

Does this sound down right patronizing, perhaps even bordering on insulting to anyone else? It does to me. I can remember my own promises, thank you very much.

Perhaps Komen should remember its own promise; the one about racing for a cure.

Komen’s partner in this venture, TPR Holdings, has pledged 13.5% of all Promise Me sales to Komen. It is also worth noting this partnership is, in and of itself, controversial since pairing up with a company that sells what some believe to be potentially toxic cosmetic products doesn’t seem to fit very well with Komen’s cure mission. But that’s another topic.

The bottle of perfume is priced at $59. If you order online, you can receive Nancy Brinker’s book, also called Promise Me. Or if you prefer, you can shop via the Home Shopping Network and make your purchase there. Nancy Brinker recently made an appearance on the HSN to promote the new “Scent of Inspiration.”

Yes, breast cancer is now featured on the HSN. And I’m not entirely sure what/who the inspiration is for? Is it breast cancer awareness in a bottle?

This is where it all started sounding more than a little off to me.  Does this feel like using breast cancer to sell a product to you? And they aren’t even waiting until October.

On the Komen fragrance website the fragrance is promoted as “A Gift for Anyone That Supports Everyone.” Really? Pretty ingenious marketing there I’d say. They literally have everyone on the planet covered in that catch-all phrase don’t they?

This sounds way more like marketing strategy for a product/profit rather than marketing strategy for finding/funding a cure for breast cancer.

There is a huge difference.

It feels like another means to slap a pink ribbon onto a product, encourage people to buy it and lead them to believe they are doing something good for a worthwhile cause.

Once again, people are led to believe that buying pretty pink stuff (and now we can add pretty smelling stuff too) equals meaningful action toward finding a cure for breast cancer. Once again, people are wrongfully being misled into believing pink consumption equals productive action for a cure.

It doesn’t, but what if…

What if Komen had decided to market this little bottle of perfume differently and put every possible penny earned from every single bottle sold toward research, even better, toward metastatic breast cancer research? 

Now that would have been making a new kind of statement.

Instead it feels like just more of the same. More product to sell. More dollars for awareness. Few dollars for research. No cure in sight.

Is this the “Scent of Inspiration”?

To me it “smells” a little off.

What do you think?


29 thoughts to “It’s Just A Little Bottle of Perfume, Or Is It?”

  1. Thank, Nancy for spelling it out so clearly. This whole thing does stink. And no, we shouldn’t “lighten up” or stop taking it so seriously. Why can’t they give more money to research? I just don’t get it. It seems like a no-brainer, yet… it’s not happening. We have to endure more pinkwashing and as you said, it’s not even October! I can’t begin to imagine the nightmare that will be.

  2. Nancey I only learned about this last night while I was having a sleepless night. I was going to blog about this but glad to see you did….
    I am thoroughly disgusted with this foundation exploiting Breast Cancer to this degree. Yet only 13.5% will be donated to “RESEARCH” The company developing the perfume is reputed to have used toxic chemicals in their other perfumes and products that may have disrupted the endocrine system.

    Are you kidding me???????????
    Better they should bottle the “RED DEVIL” (Adriamycin,) Anyone who has gone through Chemo is familiar with this chemical.

    Susan Koeman Foundation SHAME ON YOU!!!

    I hope the word gets out, BOYCOTT this foundation!!


    1. Alli, Thank you for commenting. I can feel your frustration. Actually, the TPR group is pledging 13.5% to Komen from sales and who knows how much of THAT will be for research. And yes, I understand your concern about the toxicity issue. It is a concern for sure. And definitely write that post. We need all voices here. Thanks again, Ali.

  3. Great posting, Nancy, and yes, this STINKS. To me, it’s simple as this: Komen is exploiting society once again. All its references to a cure is mere fodder.

    To address Alli’s comment that anyone who has gone through chemo is familiar with Adriamycin. While I’m familiar with what “red devil” refers to, my chemo regimen did not include this one. I had CMF. The C stands for Cytoxin, and it’s as bad as it sounds.

    1. Beth, Thank for commenting and yes, it does stink a bit doesn’t it? I happen to have had both of those chemo drugs. Ugh. They are all bad.

  4. Beth, I can only guess the Red Devil name refers to the red color of the drug. It looks much like cherry Kool-Aid without all the enjoyment. Mine was in a large syringe, injected by hand slowly into my port, so I could be monitored for side effects. Nice , huh?
    Love the article, Nancy! You already know how I feel about the stuff Komen has done. This is just bringing them down another notch on the ridiculous scale.

    1. Cheryl, I am so glad whenever you comment, thank you! Yes, I do know how you feel, but we still need you to keep expressing it in order for the message to get out. Thanks again. And the Red Devil, I know it well.

  5. Hi Alli,

    Thanks for the description of the poison. Let’s call it what it really is. Yes, I heard it was red; I didn’t know it looked like Kool-Aid. My goodness, how awful.

    Cytoxin had to be slow-dripped into me, as well, as if it went in too quickly, I would have a crushing sinus headache. I forget if it had a color, but I think it was clear.

    Chemo did a real number on me, as I’m sure it did on you.

  6. Nancy, this gets me every time I read about it. I wish they would Promise Me they would stop all this non-sensical marketing. They should show more respect to cancer survivors. Thanks for alerting your readers to this. Something stinks, and it’s not in Denmark (at least maybe not yet?) and it stinks almost as much as cancer.

  7. Nancy,
    Thanks so much for this post. I am completely disgusted with this latest venture by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. I was diagnosed in February 2011 and have taken the alternative route to beat this cancer with the Gerson Therapy. This therapy is all about detoxifying our bodies and then flooding it with nutrients from organic foods. With a very strict diet, and ALL toxic chemicals out of our environments, it upsets me to think a perfume with TOXIC ingredients is marketing a cure. So sad and just unbelievable …

    1. Meena, Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. It is upsetting isn’t it to think a company supposedly working for a cure is marketing a product that is perhaps toxic? Also, many cancer patients are highly sensitive to scents and feel this is just not an appropriate route for Komen to take. It somehow doesn’t seem as if Komen cares about cancer patients and survivors as much as they claim to. Good luck with your treatment. I am very interested to hear how that goes for you. I hope you’ll keep reading and sharing.

  8. Right on, Nancy. Once again “pink consumption equals productive action for a cure.” If only that were the case.

    The pink air is getting thicker and thicker, cutting off oxygen, leaving the quest for eradication with little real support at all. I’m so heartened that people are speaking out. Thank you.

    Gayle Sulik

    1. Lindsay, Thanks for your comments. I hope you and others will spread the word about this organization and how it has lost sight of its mission.

  9. If only it were that easy, right? Now we should be ready for a manly aftershave for those men suffering with prostate cancer! Talk about trivializing such a serious subject… it makes me livid! And not a ‘pink’ livid, but a boiling, bright RED livid!!
    Walker, MN has an annual Walk for the Cure. The local chair of it lost her dad to cancer. She is very sincere about trying to help others with cancer, but maybe she should be selling this innocuous perfume, right?

    1. Sharon, Thanks for sharing your thoughts so descriptively! I don’t fault the person you speak of or any other of the volunteers and participants. I know they have good intentions. The problem is at the top.

    1. Dorry, It’s good to see you leaving a comment! I really appreciate your thoughts and I certainly know where you stand on this, Dorry!! Thank you for sharing.

  10. I wasn’t even aware of their marketing tag line for this – yikes. Yeah, I’d say they’ve got it covered!

    Nancy Brinker isn’t compensated by Komen according to Charity Navigator. That’s probably because she’s busy making a damn mint from her book, etc-. What would Susan say?

    1. Amy, Thank you so much for checking out my blog and for commenting as well. I really appreciate it. The marketing strategy for this latest product is pretty ingenious isn’t it? All the bases are covered. And yes, I wonder what Susan would say too.

  11. My big issue with this venture is that the perfume likely contains phthalates and other hormone disrupting chemicals. How does that help cure breast cancer?

    Posting your article on the Pinkwashing Hall of Shame page on facebook (

    1. Danika, Thank you for commenting and for sharing my post on PHS. I agree, it is pretty ridiculous and doesn’t seem to fit in with Komen’s mission any way you look at it.

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