In the spirit of past heretics, ranters and agitators, our resident angry outsider Claxton tells you what’s getting his goat about this industry.
If you tsk-tsked along with the Australian Federal Court and the New Zealand Commerce Commission about Nurofen’s dodgy marketing last year, then perhaps you need to man up. Just to jog your memory: back in December the manufacturer of Nurofen, Reckitt Benckiser, was found guilty of breaking Australian consumer law by charging a higher price for specialist forms of the painkiller—for period pain, migraines and so on—when the product formula was the essentially the same.
Talk about outrage! As if you need more evidence of the evils of big pharma!
But hang on there, Mr High and Mrs Mighty. Pulling the wool over consumers’ eyes has pretty much been the stock-intrade of marketers for years. Please don’t tell me you have a problem with that?
Automobiles? What’s the difference between an Audi, VW and Skoda? Not much, as they roll out of the same factories on the same chassis. Except that the price indicates what level of snob you are.
Insurance? We have perfectly good public health system but the health insurers do their best to freak you out about how long you’ll wait for the that bunion surgery. We’ve not yet become as bad as the USA where you can get Rapture insurance for pets. But all insurance is based on the spurious concern that one day, sometime in the future, there may be a problem.
Speaking of health, a particular bugbear is body wash, a product essentially invented to consume soap faster as it dribbles off your nethers before it’s done its job. Increasing the size of packaging without increasing the contents (FMCG manufacturers take a bow), adding padding to laundry powder and widening the tops of bottles so more product comes per serving ... these are old fashioned marketing tricks.
Marketers aren’t alone in such alchemy, of course. ‘Planned obsolescence’, in which products are deliberately made to fail, was first introduced by the head of GM, Alfred Sloan, in the 1960s to address the saturation of the US car market. He’s so clever he’s a got a business school named after him.
And of course fear mongering has been a successful political strategy for thousands of years. How else were castles and cathedrals ever built?
Marketers like to think they’re solving real world problems. So much of the craft is manufacturing discontent. Get over it.