In a gender priming condition, that figure dropped to 42 percent," Puntoni told Life's Little Mysteries.
Even gender-priming in the form of asking female study participants to write essays on gender (as opposed to essays on neutral subjects) caused them to rate themselves as less vulnerable to getting breast cancer, and less likely to donate to ovarian cancer research.
This showed that the pink ad was specifically making women feel less vulnerable to breast cancer, not just all diseases, Puntoni said. ] The researchers conducted several variations on that experiment, with more than 350 female subjects.
Each study produced similar results, which were found to be statistically significant.
"In one study, we found that in a control condition, 77 percent of [women] decided to donate to ovarian cancer research" — which, obviously, only affects women — "when choosing which type of cancer research to donate money to.
One of the most tried-and-true marketing techniques is the use of gender cues in logos: "This is pink, so you, female consumers of the world, should buy it," the thinking goes.
Along these same lines, breast cancer awareness campaigns color their ribbons, banners and ads pink to draw women's attention to their message.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and pink is everywhere.However, recent research suggests that campaigners ought to rethink the pink.Stefano Puntoni, an associate professor of marketing management at the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University and his colleagues found that playing to gender cues, such as coloring breast cancer ads pink to target women, can trigger defense mechanisms and have the opposite of their intended effect.As detailed in the Journal of Marketing Research, Puntoni and his colleagues conducted 10 different experiments showing that "gender priming" — subjecting women to gender cues, including pink ads — actually makes women less likely to donate to women-specific cancer research and less likely to think they'll get breast cancer.In the first experiment, the researchers explained, "we examined women’s personal breast cancer risk estimates following exposure to a breast cancer advertisement that either contained gender cues (e.g., pink ribbon) or minimized them." After looking at a pink breast cancer awareness ad, women rated themselves as being significantly less at risk of getting breast cancer than they did after seeing gender-neutral ad."As a control, we also assessed risk perceptions for several gender-neutral diseases," the researchers wrote.