Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Research: Educating Consumers or Confusing 'Em!

There was a time when I have had bath with Rin, yes the one that is used to wash clothes. Reason, that was the only one available at the station during our trip to Chennai from Guwahati. It was an almost four day's journey and in those days Indian Railways had an absolutely fantastic record of running late by 13, 14 hours.

Things are not that bad normally. Over a period of time, just like the amount of products that vie for my mouth-share, the number of products that have become part of my bath-share is incredible. There was a time when a soap was enough for the entire routine. Today, the shower gel goes to body; face wash to, of course, face; shampoo to clean the scalp and conditioner to nourish it. Is this sign of prosperity or what!

The role of research reports to 'educate' consumers and 'modify' consumer's behavior to change or enhance consumption pattern is unbelievable. And you thought lobbying happens only with the Government.

Shampoo brands through systematic 'education' urged us to not use good old soap for the scalp. Reason being that the scalp is different from body skin and thus requires specialist product. Once shampoo established, conditioners came in. Of course, then you have afterwash conditioners! Again, since skin on the face is/was different, to 'complement' soap, face wash rubbed in. I still remember when I was young, we were asked to shampoo once a week sighting that the daily application of shampoo would lead to hair fall. But over a period of time, research reports suggested that daily shampoo was better for scalp care.

Staying on the same set of products, while driving back home, Savitha said that a report suggested use of block-soap should be avoided. I was quite puzzled. On quizzing her, she said that the reports indicated that a block of soap attracts germs, hence not good for the skin. Did I read something in between the lines? Of course, I did. To me it looked like a report from liquid soap manufacturers wanting to shake up the block-soap market.

For so many years, people all over the world have been using block of soap. Today, it has become a bad practice!

I came across another such interesting case. A news article whose headline barked - Eat Eggs & Reduce Weight! Wow!

Eggs were a strict no-no for me, considering I am not only big built but also diabetic, I felt very happy. But as I went through the article, I decided to stay away from egg diet. The report 'proved' that a two egg breakfast helps reduce weight considerably. Because of its properties, eggs reduce hunger pangs. Thus, ensuring that a person eats less through the day! Yikes! I would eat as much after four egg breakfast as I normally do and add to the lipid treasure chest (or should I say waist) that I have built, already.

There was this joke in Reader's Digest that I came across. The writer deletes a line from her article stating that pregnant women should stop eating Chinese food. When Editor asks why, the writer replies that she thought over as to what pregnant Chinese women would eat!

Not to say that research reports are all farce, but the amount that is churned out to induce behavioral change can often confuse the consumers.

On something similar but very different, do watch The Story of Stuff.

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