Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Save Money. Save Skin. Save Health. Save Life. What's Being Sold vs What's Being Bought

Thanks to a couple of interesting conversations I've had lately with College Kid, my mind has been working overtime. One conversation led me to the mind-boggling numbers of how many people use tanning beds in the USA alone. The other conversation has led me to pondering the role of marketing. First, those mind-boggling numbers; which the numbers are real people:

According to the most recent statistics from the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • On an average day in the United States, more than 1 million people tan in tanning salons.
  • Nearly 70 percent of tanning salon patrons are Caucasian girls and women, primarily aged 16 to 29 years.
  • Nearly 28 million people tan indoors in the United States annually. Of these, 2.3 million are teens.
  • In 2010, the indoor tanning industry’s revenue is estimated to be $2.6 billion.
That's a lot of people spending a lot of money. I did the math. Using the figures given, in 2010, an estimated 28 million people spending an estimated $2.6 billion to tan breaks down to each person spending a whopping $928.57 annually! Just imagine the money being spent in households where there is more than one tanner!

So, what are people buying with that kind of money? The superficial answer is, "Duh. A tan." Not necessarily. That's not what marketers and advertisers are selling. What's being sold is health.

As a people, Americans are willing to shell out big bucks to get healthy and stay healthy. According to Dr. Josephine Briggs, the director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [(NCCAM)], "Eighty-three million Americans spend an estimated $33.9 billion on complementary and alternative medicine [(CAM)]...in managing their own health." That breaks down to $408.43 a person annually for those that purchase these products. This doesn't count what's spent on gyms, trainers, special diets, etc. It adds up. But it backs up every recent poll out there on Americans' personal priorities. "Health" is number one with people in general, college students, any demographic that is polled, our health takes priority. This is just one example.

Tanners are very health conscious people actually. They are trim, fit, often ripped, which implies they are probably calorie counters, folks who exercise, and who want to do everything they can to be as healthy as possible and enjoy life to the fullest.

And advertisers know how to tap into that and sell tanning as a health benefit. People major in Marketing. They can study Consumer Behavior: The Psychology of Marketing and learn:

The study of consumers helps firms and organizations improve their marketing strategies by understanding issues such as how
  • The psychology of how consumers think, feel, reason, and select between different alternatives (e.g., brands, products, and retailers);
  • The psychology of how the consumer is influenced by his or her environment (e.g., culture, family, signs, media);
  • The behavior of consumers while shopping or making other marketing decisions;
  • Limitations in consumer knowledge or information processing abilities influence decisions and marketing outcome; 
  • How consumer motivation and decision strategies differ between products that differ in their level of importance or interest that they entail for the consumer; and
  • How marketers can adapt and improve their marketing campaigns and marketing strategies to more effectively reach the consumer.
One "official" definition of consumer behavior is "The study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society."

Couple that with the power of the Internet and the power of marketing takes on a whole new look.  It's no newsflash to say that the Internet has the inherent ability to turn anyone's thoughts on any given subject into "gospel." How often have we heard or said, "I saw it on the Internet."? A total rewrite of history can be put on a webpage, free of charge to both creator and user, and some people will automatically and unquestioningly believe it because "It's on the Internet." Facts we don't like can be ignored because someone else has stated the opposite "on the Internet."

Someone once said "Ignorance is bliss". Sometimes ignorance can be unhealthy or even deadly.

Such is the case with buying the tanning bed industry's hype and touting of the "health benefits" of tanning. There are many, many articles out there making health claims. Then, there are those articles that "explain" the health benefits of using tanning beds to produce vitamin d. I've chosen this one because it's on the webpage of Dr. Joseph Mercola, who also, conveniently, and ignoring the facts, sells tanning beds. Dr. Mercola has quite a following and is a frequent guest on the Dr. Oz Show where they discussed these "benefits" and Dr. Oz publicly stated his rethinking of tanning beds and, on-air, gave his support of their usage. A support he has yet to retract. And he won't.

I find this very interesting, follow the trail yourself. Please. You will find on Dr. Mercola's page that sells tanning beds, a very strong endorsement from the "Vitamin D Council" which sounds very authoritative. Click on About Us at the top and you'll find a list of links at the left. Click on Our Funding and scroll down to Our Current Sponsors Are and you'll find a link to ESB Enterprises (UVB Tanning Beds). Click on that link and you'll go to Dr. Mercola's tanning bed sale page.

At the bottom of every page on the Vitamin D Council's website is "*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products and information presented on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

Let's not forget the "health benefits" tanning lends to combating depression and stress. Again, there are many other such articles online. This one claims tanning also to help prevent all sorts of things, including cancer. That's not factual, though.

So, what are the "facts" I refer to? Again, they are lifted up on many sites. Sites that do not sell tanning beds. Sites that want the facts known because people's health and lives are at stake. Sites with nothing to gain from getting this information out there.

From the American Cancer Society

From the National Cancer Institute

From the American Academy of Dermatology

From Melanoma Research Foundation

From Aim at Melanoma
What's sold is health.

What's bought is leather at best, and melanoma and possible death at worst.

Be a smart, savvy consumer. Get the facts.

We live in a "buyer beware" society and we know that when it comes to buying other products and commodities. Don't be influenced by the come-ons and hype put out by an industry that wants to make money off "health." They peddle disease and death.

Instead of "buying" health, become a "saver."

Save money. Save Skin. Save health. Save life.

Maybe your own. Maybe that of someone you love.

Learn to filter fact from fiction.

This has been my PSA for today. If you've read this far

I am grateful!