The History of the Pink Ribbon: A Guerrilla Marketing Success

September, 2023

As we all know, the famous pink ribbon has become a widely recognized symbol of breast cancer awareness and support on an international level. It is used by companies worldwide to show their support for women affected by this disease, especially during the month of October, established as the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States since 1985.
However, its origins cannot be attributed to a single entity, and we must go back more than 30 years to understand its history. This iconic ribbon is, in fact, a great example of what a well-executed guerrilla marketing campaign can achieve, transcending its initial purpose and drawing society's attention to a crucial health issue.
In this blog post, we will delve into the history of the pink ribbon, its evolution, and how it became an international symbol of hope and awareness.


The First "Pink Ribbon"

Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when the pink ribbon was first used, we know that it emerged as a symbol of breast cancer awareness in the early 1990s, with the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer as one of the key players in popularizing its use. In 1991, the organization distributed pink ribbons (which actually were salmon-colored) to participants in the New York Race for Breast Cancer Survivors, with the aim of promoting research, early detection, and treatment of this disease.

One year after this initial marketing campaign, in 1992, Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of Estée Lauder Companies, in collaboration with Alexandra Penney, Editor-in-Chief of Self magazine, also distributed millions of pink ribbons at Estée Lauder makeup counters across the United States. This action effectively introduced the pink ribbon to a broader audience beyond dedicated activists and healthcare professionals.

As awareness of breast cancer and the symbol of the pink ribbon grew in the United States, it didn't take long for this movement to go global. The international journey of the pink ribbon was facilitated by various breast cancer organizations, passionate advocates, and the universal appeal of its message.
The globalization of the pink ribbon was a gradual process, with different countries and regions adopting the symbol at their own pace, as breast cancer organizations around the world recognized the power of this simple emblem and began incorporating it into their awareness campaigns.

In conclusion, the journey that the pink ribbon has made from being an initial community-driven symbol of breast cancer awareness to becoming a global phenomenon is a remarkable testament to the power of guerrilla marketing and community-driven initiatives. A campaign that has transcended borders, cultures, and languages to become a symbol of hope, unity, and support for those affected by breast cancer worldwide.

The history of the pink ribbon reminds us that even the simplest symbols can have immense power when driven by a shared purpose and a community of passionate advocates.