Part 1: Creating “Problems” to Sell “Solutions”
This is also known as “Evil Marketing Hype” by the cynical types, who think that marketers are just trying to dupe them into buying things they don’t need. As mentioned in my “About” paragraph on this site, I don’t believe that it’s a marketer’s job to “sell” things to people, but rather to make them aware of the best solutions to problems they actually have. This article on Forbes struck me as a perfect example of the “evil” marketing: creating “problems” to sell “solutions”. The article discusses how words like “diet”, “firming”, “optimal”, “healthy”, etc. are used to convince people to adhere to certain fads that include high-end food, supplements, gym memberships, and other generally unnecessary products and services you must pay for.
First, “problems” are created when industries use words in a way other than their intending meaning. For example, the Forbes article talks about the words “health”, “diet”, and “optimal”. Essentially, each of these words should mean the actions people take to make their body function at its’ highest potential. However, the fitness industry has turned these words into verbs with very little substance. For example, “diet” should mean the food you put into your body, but the fitness industry tells us that a “diet” is something you do to lose weight. When you start using words without respect to their original definition, you start to plant the idea that there is something inherently wrong with a person who is following a regiment based on the original definition of the word. This progresses into a “problem” that must be “solved”… therefore, the problem of “diet” becomes solved by adding unnecessary supplements or expensive food programs to create “optimal” results. But what is “optimal”? Well, I want to improve my “health”. But what is “health”? A person needs a measurable goal of “health” in order to reach “optimal” results. For example, one could define health as running faster or decreasing body fat by a certain percentage, and then take the necessary actions to achieve this goal.
Second, solving “problems” doesn’t actually add any value. In the article, the author mentions the immeasurable goals of “firming” or “toning”. In fact, muscles can only get larger or smaller, so there’s no value in saying that you want to “tone” a muscle. Are you looking to increase or decrease the size of the muscle? That’s the valuable question. For a solution to truly be a solution, it must add value. To use an example related to the Forbes article, let’s look at the Zone food program. This program aims to deliver “healthy” meals to your home to help you lose weight. In reality, a person can go to the super market and pick up these items and make the food themselves. Thus, the true value of this program is not that the healthy food will help you lose weight, it’s that the home delivery will help you save time and stress. If your goal is to save time and stress when making meal choices, the Zone program adds value. If your goal is to lose weight by changing your diet, the Zone program does not add value to your goal. I also touch on this theme in The Underlying Need post.
The Forbes article and my blog post are not to suggest that people don’t need help obtaining their fitness goals, but rather to highlight the practices of some marketers in the fitness industry. Instead of focusing on real problems with measurable progress toward a specific goal, many marketers create “problems”. These “problems” are followed by “solutions” that add no value to customers’ lives, but exist solely to make money for the company. There is, however, a difference between “creating” problems and “forecasting” needs, as discussed in Part 2.