By Bob Root, Keys CTO
I spend 300 days a year on the road, out and about with our customers, retailers and at industry events. I receive numerous questions every day. The majority are inspiring and educational for me.
Almost daily, though, I receive questions that relate to opinions expressed by some people or companies that are not based in fact, and literally scare people. They strike fear in people and I wonder what motivates these fearmongers to use negative marketing to further themselves or to try to elevate themselves in other peoples’ eyes.
We see both companies and journalists using fear tactics to try and sell themselves, products and publications. We call this the FUD factor. FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, and this combination is the antithesis of facts. I see ads, blogs and opinions that border on criminal irresponsibility, because their content will often scare people so badly that they stop using their prescription products, thus threatening their lives.
A great example of this is the controversy around nano zinc oxide, which we use in our Solar Rx chemical-free sunblock product. In 1989, a researcher in England named Stark proposed that nano particles could be absorbed into the skin. A number of companies and individuals ran with this hypothesis, and used FUD to promote their own products or image. Three years ago, when this surfaced, we stood our ground and offered studies and our own testing refuting any dangers specifically around the use of nano zinc oxide. In fact, we showed the benefits and safety of the use of uncoated nano zinc oxide. We provided images, studies and formal presentations to the EWG and the Natural Products Manufacturers Association, and during meetings of the signers of the Safe Cosmetics Compact. The facts are these: since the Stark hypothesis, there have been over 400 peer reviewed studies that show no absorption of nano zinc oxide into the skin. So substantial was the evidence, that even the EWG reversed their position against nano particles, and went so far as to say that they are safe. Here is an excerpt of their reversal:
From the EWG
“…micronized and nano-sized zinc and titanium dioxide. After all, no one has taken a more expansive and critical look than EWG at the use of nanoparticles in cosmetics and sunscreens, including the lack of definitive safety data and consumer information on these common ingredients, and few substances more dramatically highlight gaps in our system of public health protections than the raw materials used in the bizarre and burgeoning field of nanotechnology. But 18 months, 800 products, and nearly 400 peer-reviewed studies later, we find ourselves drawing a different conclusion, and recommending some sunscreens that contain nano-sized ingredients.
Consumer Reports 2007 testing of eight sunscreens showed that consumers can be protected from UV radiation using products free of nano-scale ingredients like zinc and titanium. We expected to find this as well, but we took our study two steps further than Consumer Reports to be certain. We looked not only at whether or not products provide broad-spectrum UV protection, but also at which sunscreens break down in the sun, and at the full range of potentially hazardous sunscreen ingredients that can absorb through the skin and into the body to pose other risks. Our answers changed.
Our study shows that consumers who use sunscreens without zinc and titanium are likely exposed to more UV radiation and greater numbers of hazardous ingredients than consumers relying on zinc and titanium products for sun protection. We found that consumers using sunscreens without zinc and titanium would be exposed to an average of 20% more UVA radiation — with increased risks for UVA-induced skin damage, premature aging, wrinkling, and UV-induced immune system damage — than consumers using zinc — and titanium-based products. They contain four times as many high hazard ingredients known or strongly suspected to cause cancer or birth defects, to disrupt human reproduction or damage the growing brain of a child.”
Here is the link to the balance of their findings: EWG Nano Position
Did you know that, negative and comparative marketing are illegal in Europe? Companies in these countries must sell their products based on their features, benefits and advantages, and not on any distinctions related to what they do not have in their products. Further, companies and journalists there that incite fear are held liable for their actions and comments. Here in the U.S., free speech is a much-valued right, so what we say as opinion is upheld by the constitution. But that doesn’t absolve us of responsibility in our words and actions.
When I am on the road and fielding peoples’ questions, must queries are heartfelt requests for me to help them weed out the facts from the FUD…negative marketing! I say it is easy.
So, in the Fight against FUD, here are a few suggestions:
- When you hear someone or some company saying that their product does not contain an ingredient and that is why they do not use a particular ingredient: STOP, Challenge and Choose!
- If you read an opinion expressed as if it were a fact, without any corroborating evidence: STOP Challenge and Choose!
- If an article or product does not state a solution, but only delivers a negative perception: STOP, Challenge and Choose!
- 4. If your intuition tells you that what you are hearing is scare tactics: STOP, Challenge and Choose!
What does STOP, Challenge and Choose mean?
- 1. STOP everything and do not fall victim to opinion without facts. Do not make anything up about what you are hearing, reading or seeing.
- 2. Challenge what people are saying or claiming, and ask for studies, facts and detailed information so that you can make up your mind by balancing truth and opinion.
- 3. Choose your direction based on your intuition about people and their motives. Is it YOU they care about? Choose based on facts and not FUD.
Finally, what prompted this article?
I was contacted by one of our customers who is a regular Solar Rx user. She is a Melanoma survivor who told me that she stopped using our Solar Rx and all sunscreens because of something she read in a blog. The irony is that her fear had nothing to do with nano zinc or any other nano particle. It was because the writer was blasting companies that use vegetable emulsifying wax because they believe that all waxes are the “same” and contain undisclosed chemicals. Their claim: “We use a non-PEG emulsifier from the UK.” (Keys tested this “non-PEG emulsifier” and found the existence of other chemicals that precluded using them in our products). Irresponsible claims, yes! Even worse, they have influenced this person to make a potentially life-threatening decision, based only on FUD. FUD or FACTS? STOP, Challenge and Choose.
Always follow your intuition when it comes to products, companies and people. Never let fear control you, because as I define it, FEAR is really an acronym standing for False Expectations Appearing Real.
Negative marketing is just that..it is Negative! Look for the positive and I assure you that you will find it. If a product or person cannot explain why they are helping you, don’t buy it!