I was listening to Dr. Aviva Romm’s podcast the other day and in it she mentioned Lysol’s ad campaign, telling women to use it as a feminine hygiene product and even as birth control.
Lysol. Putting it you-know-where. I had to rewind the episode and listen again to make sure I heard it right.
Utterly shocked and confused, I went to Google and sure enough, up popped articles about it.
The ad above has so many things wrong with it, but unfortunately worked to sell women on the unsafe use of Lysol in the name of “hygeine”. And it’s just one example of so many strategies used by marketing companies to get you hooked in the idea of a product – and how regulations aren’t strong enough to stop it.
I’m going to talk more about the myth of regulations, the power of marketing, and how you can avoid wasting your money (and health) despite these issues.
We can’t rely on industry and government to “have our backs.”
Before you call me a conspiracy theorist, there is fact to this statement. And yes, I am aware than many marketers and brands act with full integrity and legitimately provide a product or service to make a positive different in the world.
But the unfortunate truth is that there are many brands who just want to figure out more and more ways to get you to buy. And they are doing it with what I would consider largely unchecked and reckless abandon.
Here’s what I shared on my Facebook Page about it:
As a business owner, I get that companies need to market and sell us their products and services. I know the strategies that businesses are coached on, and understand why marketing campaigns are done the way they are.
But there’s a big disconnect between some brands and public health and well-being. One of my main goals is to help you become a more conscious consumer. So you can see through the marketing and figure out what you’re really being sold.
Here are 3 things you should ask yourself before buying (or buying into) a product:
- Do you need it? (And how would your life change without it?)
- What are the impacts on your health and happiness?
- How does it affect the environment?
To be able to answer all of these questions, you really do have to learn how to read labels. And often, this means reading between the lines. It’s a life skill that I feel should be taught in media literacy classes these days.
It’s not hard, but it takes practice. Look past the marketing language, and consider what’s in a product, how it’s made, and whether it makes sense to use it at all.
Present day examples of marketing magic
It’s easy to think of the Lysol ad as an “old fashioned” blip that was obviously pretty crazy. But you don’t have to look very far to find similar examples nowadays:
- Dryer sheets and fabric softeners: Laundry does not have to smell clean to be clean, and there are much cheaper ways to reduce static.
- Room freshener sprays: If something stinks that badly in your home, you’re better off dealing with it at the source than masking it with synthetic fragrance. But my guess is that 90% of homes that use these smell just fine on their own.
- Antibacterial hand soaps and all-purpose cleaners: Bacteria and germs are not all bad; in fact many are essential to our immune system function. But we’ve been “sold” on the need for hyper-sanitation, even though medical experts agree that soap and water is all we need.
I could go on, but you get the point.
If, by the way, you’re wondering how clean your cleaning products are right about now, grab my list of 11 popular “green” brands here to find out how healthy they really are. I’m also working on a downloadable guide to help you learn how to quickly read labels so you can avoid the marketing BS – I’ll send it to you when it’s done!
What else you can do
Think through your daily routine, and next time you’re at the grocery store, take a couple minutes before tossing products in your cart. Ask yourself the 3 simple questions above. And if you don’t know the answer, make a point of doing a little research. The more we can make conscious choices, instead of just doing what we’ve always done or falling victim to marketing claims, the better off we will be.
You will no longer be wasting money on things you don’t need. You won’t be adding to your body burden of toxic chemicals. You will be showing companies that you care about your health and the health of the planet.
All those benefits just by pausing for a couple seconds at the grocery store.
Don’t forget to download your cheat sheet of cleaning products to find out which ones are actually green – grab the list here. When you sign up, you’ll be the first to access a new downloadable label-reading guide for all your household purchases when it’s ready.