Gross: Susan G. Komen Turns Breast Cancer into Marketing Opportunity


“Support the Cure — Start Shopping”

So says the banner on a snazzy new website for “Promise Me” Perfume, the latest offspring of a corporate sponsorship between Susan G. Komen, the breast cancer fundraiser, and TPR Holdings LLC, a New York-based “operator in the consumer products industry[...investing in] scalable mass and prestige opportunities in health, beauty and wellness categories…and providing transition services for large consumer products companies including Shiseido Cosmetics and Procter & Gamble. TPR principals have founded and developed such international brands as ZIRH Men’s Skincare, John Varvatos Fragrances and French Connection Beauty.”  And now, TPR has latched onto that most marketable of brands, breast cancer.

Sometimes, I swear, these posts practically write themselves.  If there is actually anyone left on the planet, or at least in the United States, who is not aware that breast cancer is no longer merely a pernicious and incurable disease, but has in fact become a ubiquitous brand and a profitable marketing opportunity for manufacturers, then let me enlighten you.

From the TPR Holdings website:

NEW YORK, October 26, 2010: TPR Holdings, a consumer products manufacturing and distribution company led by its President and beauty industry veteran Brian Robinson, has joined forces with Susan G. Komen for the Cure® to launch a union of beauty and charity.  Robinson, founder of Zirh Men’s Skincare and the driving force behind fragrance mainstays John Varvatos and French Connection, along with his TPR Holdings team, presents the first ever fragrance developed for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization.  “Promise Me” is the first and only proprietary fragrance developed with Susan G. Komen for the Cure as a beautiful way to honor those who have been touched by breast cancer and encourage those who have not to support this vital cause.  TPR Holdings will donate 13.5% of all Promise Me sales to the Susan G. Komen organization.  TPR has made a commitment to guarantee a minimum donation of $1,000,000.  The name of the fragrance was taken from the recent book Promise Me written by Susan Komen for the Cure founder and CEO Nancy Brinker.

“With fifteen years in the beauty industry, I wanted to lend my expertise to a profound cause,” says Robinson.  “We worked closely with top perfumers to infuse the essence of the Susan G. Komen message into a fragrance that really gives back and brings hope to those suffering from breast cancer.”

Hmm.  A tall order, to “infuse the essence of the Susan G. Komen message into a fragrance.”  In the first place, I’m not quite sure what the SGK message really is.  According to Jean Claude Delville, the perfumer who developed the fragrance, “Promise Me is a sophisticated floriental fragrance that opens with a fresh burst of mandarin, bergamot and blood orange.  Its feminine heart evokes softness and beauty with pink peony, wild orchid and rosewood.  The scent lingers on white patchouli and musk for a warm, sensual finish.” Okay, so it’s sort of a fruit salad with a few flowers thrown in, perhaps served in a rosewood bowl. Delville further states that his intention was to “capture a long lasting emotion of positive energy, hope and love.  I wanted to create something empowering and something that would speak to all women.”

All right then.  But I’m a little confused here.  How is this supposed to bring “hope to those suffering from breast cancer?”  I know that ever since I stopped using regular antiperspirant, which is a no-no when you’re getting radiation, and started using a non-carcinogenic deodorant instead, I may not always smell as fresh as a daisy, so to speak.  So, if I spritz on a little “Promise Me,” will I smell better?  I wonder if the ingredients are organic or non-carcinogenic.  Doesn’t say on the website.  But, hey, I’m all for “something empowering.”  Wish I’d known years ago that I could just spray it on.  Would have saved me a lot of hard work.

No fools, TPR.  They don’t just do business with anybody.  You have to demonstrate your corporate worthiness first.  Their Investment Criteria is described as follows:

    Target Investments
  • Fragrance, Skin Care and Color Brands
  • Contract Manufacturers
  • Orphan Consumer Brands (Health, Beauty, Wellness)
  • Distressed Consumer Brands (Health, Beauty, Wellness)
  • Long Term Consumer Licenses
    Investment Criteria
  • We only take majority interests
  • Revenues of at least $2.5MM
  • OK with weak balance sheets and operational losses
  • Proven Sell Through
  • We specialize in Unique Situations such as partner disputes, hostile creditors and pending litigation
    Core Competencies
  • Public Relations
  • Packaging and Product Design
  • Financial Restructuring
  • International Distribution
  • Urgent Timelines

Well, it’s nice to know TPR believes in “urgent timelines.”  I’d say trying to decrease the death rate for breast cancer qualifies as urgent.  Of course, they don’t actually mention that untidy item in the florid prose above.  I suppose that wouldn’t be sensual or feminine  enough.  But, not to worry.  In the meantime, TPR gets to join the SGK Million Dollar Council Elite, that special group of corporate sponsors who have sold enough pink products to be able to contribute at least a million dollars in profits from the sales of those products to SGK.  They’ll get to rub elbows with such luminaries as Ford Motor Company, Bank of America, and Belk, a retailer of clothing and housewares, and makers of the pink-beribboned Belkie Bear.  And no one can deny that there’s a certain cachet in marketing a new product that belongs to the same club as the 2008 Ford Special Edition Warriors in Pink Mustang, a silver car with pink racing stripes and a nifty body ornament.  And don’t worry if you missed out on the special scarf designed for Ford by Lilly Pulitzer in 2003; you can still dress quite stylishly by shopping at the Ford Warriors In Pink online clothing store.

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If you still haven’t quite figured out precisely what constitutes “the essence of the Susan G. Komen message,” never fear.  If you purchase the “Promise Me” Eau de Parfum or Eau de Parfum Gift Set, you’ll get a free copy of Nancy Brinker’s book, Promise Me, in which she tells the story of how her sister Susan’s death in 1980 from metastatic breast cancer prompted Brinker to spend the next thirty years turning her sister’s disease into a brand.

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Kudos to, for their recent post, The Scent of Exploitation.


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