Harnessing the Power of Art for Cancer Prevention
An Interview with Shaney Joe of Keep A Breast
Meet Shaney jo, founder of Keep A Breast, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing breast cancer with education. You may not find Shaney organizing breast cancer 5K’s or sporting a pink Breast Cancer ribbon, but you will see her set up a breast cancer education booth at the Vans Warped Tour and make plaster casts of Katy Perry’s breasts. (We’re not joking.)
Every year, approximately 290,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Shaney jo recognizes this statistic, and uses her innate creative and rockstar personality to change their lives everyday. Through Keep A Breast, she helps young people educate themselves on breast cancer prevention and early detection. Recently, Shaney jo visited the BLVR office to share her story and communicate her Brand Belief to our team.
Here’s our talk:
AR: At BLVR, we lead all brand development clients by identifying an organization’s “Brand Belief” – your organization’s take on the world, how it can make the world a little better and how your team will achieve that. Tell us, what is KAB’s Brand Belief?
SJ: As a nonprofit organization, we have a mission statement, which is essentially our brand belief. Our mission is to empower young people around the world with breast health education and support. Every time we have a new idea for a campaign, we always have to ask ourselves: is this in line with our mission? Does this align with our core values? Our Brand Belief is that prevention is the cure, that individuals have the power to be their own health advocates, and that education lays the foundation for impactful action.
AR: We’re of the mindset that people don’t buy things, they buy feelings. And over the years, KAB has been successful in capturing the Millennial market – probably one of the most sought-after, civic-minded and difficult audiences to acquire! How do you think you / KAB have been able to retain these folks and keep them impassioned about your cause?
SJ: All the feels!!! My mission was to reach young people in an authentic way and treasure every interaction that reflects that. Honestly, we never strategically set out to reach millennials. That’s probably why our message spoke to them. When I started Keep A Breast, I was in my 20’s and I just wanted to do something for my friends – people my age. No one was was talking to us about breast cancer or our risk. I worked in the skateboard industry as a designer and produced art exhibitions, so it was just natural for me to do something unique and special with this creative group of people. We are just ourselves, doing what we love to do and I feel like that shines through.
AR: When organizations and companies grow a massive following, partner with big brands, and garner celebrity endorsements, there’s this perception that they’ve “sold out.” How have you managed to build (and maintain) a powerful movement without losing KAB’s grassroots vibe and authenticity?
SJ: You are the company that you keep. I’m not friends with big celebrities, and I don’t have any personal contacts at big companies like Facebook, Apple, or Google. I am lucky enough to have friends that have influence in their own communities like artists, surfers, skateboarders, and musicians. Friends are always down to help friends and most people want to help, they just need to be asked. But, if Lady Gaga, Beyonce or Meryl Streep calls and wanted to support KAB, I would definitely call them back.
We just are grassroots. That’s who we are, and I don’t think selling out is always bad. As long as you are true to your mission and core values, I say sell out all you can. People know we are transparent because we don’t compromise our values for a partnership that doesn’t serve our audience in every way.
AR: There are a lot of nonprofits taking up market share when it comes to the breast cancer awareness. How does KAB disrupt the market and stand out?
SJ: We don’t try to disrupt anything. We like to get along. We are just naturally different and unique. We stand out because of who we are and where we come from. We are Californians, we are designers, environmentalists, brewers, nerds, yogis, and dancers. We bring our own individual passions and communities to KAB. I would have never expected when I created the “I love boobies!” bracelet that it would spark such a huge national controversy. There are so many breast cancer charities, but there are none like Keep A Breast. We are confident in that, and that’s what why just walking our talk makes us stand out.
AR: One of my favorite things about KAB is the fact it keeps art at the core of its work via breast casts, collaborating with the arts and action sports community, and so much more. How do you and your team dream up and execute creative campaigns that stay true to your mission, engage Millennials in a relevant way, and drive ROI?
SJ: Art has been and always will be the core of Keep A Breast. This video explains it best.
“Art generally makes you think, if you stop in front of a piece, sometimes people walk by and find it useless, the person that does stop is able to feel, think and make their own judgement.” ––Carlos Maturana (bororo), Chilean Artist.
This is exactly the intention of the art behind KAB. Art can communicate complex feelings and emotions that I never could. Art can change lives, make people think, and make people act. And for KAB, it inspires people to be their own own health advocates.
Whatever we do, art is always at our core. Even our art direction as a brand is core to who we are. Awareness unites our passions, and we use brand recognition as a form of art to create campaigns that appeal to younger people, help us achieve our mission, and help us raise funds. We have a new national grassroots campaign called Fit 4 Prevention that is a fundraiser, but also helps educate about cancer prevention through fitness and wellness. We are able to inspire people across the country to inspire their own communities. It’s one thing for us to preach to the choir, but the choir going out into the community and delivering your message for you is the best and most authentic way to get information about breast cancer prevention to people.
October is breast cancer prevention. The best thing you can do is help spread the word about early detection. Download the free Keep A Breast ‘Check Yourself’ app (available in Spanish, French, Japanese, German and Dutch). Save a life and tell a friend.