Sick of Pink Complainers

stop_complaining Sent to the Boston Globe this morning.

Dear Editors,

The Sick of Pink article in yesterday's Globe Magazine was unfair to socially responsible companies in general and to New Balance, an outstanding corporate citizen, in particular.

The whole story reminded me of another. A winemaker who despite having some of the best casks of wine in his town would nonetheless sample each one until he found a poor vintage for himself. A friend of the winemaker once asked a servant what his master was doing. "Looking for bad when he is surrounded by good."

That's exactly what critics of New Balance are doing. They've bypassed all the good things New Balance has done (the good work of its foundation, the millions of dollars New Balance has raised for Komen's, the invaluable awareness they've brought to breast cancer, etc.) and chosen instead to focus on the thing that didn't quite taste right.

A couple things to remember.

New Balance is a big company and sells a lot of sneakers. While I'm sure the Lace Up For the Cure line is a winner for both New Balance and Komen, overall it's just one small piece of the sneaker company's success. In short, you can be sure the Lace Up line has been a better performer for Komen than it has been for New Balance.

Another thing to consider is that most people who buy "pink" products aren't just buying them for the ribbon. Besides the die-hard supporter, who would really spends a $100 on a pair of shoes just because it has a pink ribbon on it? Let's not go overboard. The cause connection is just one factor in the consumer's buying decision, especially if we agree with the writer that we are awash in "pink" products to choose from.

Consumers buy New Balance shoes because they are well made, have an excellent reputation, are made for performance and comfort, and, if they buy them locally, perhaps because they are produced by a Boston-based company. The fact that they support Komen is another great reason to buy them. But it's one reason, not the only reason. And I believe Komen gets their fair share of the sneaker price, plus a generous donation from New Balance. How much more should New Balance, or any company, be expected to give?

Companies should obey the law and register with the Attorney General's office. They should also be clear on how much a nonprofit will receive from a cause-related marketing program. But good companies like New Balance that do good deeds for the right reasons shouldn't be second-guessed and chided for what they DON'T do, or be held to unreasonable standards.

The risk is that very soon we'll all be complaining that companies like New Balance don't do anything at all.

Joe Waters