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Chemical Reaction: Cognitive Dissonance

By: Steve Herman
Posted: October 10, 2008, from the January 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

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“New Generation does not attempt to prescribe for treatment of hair loss in any form. Ways to fight baldness are explored, giving you the advantage of extensive knowledge of causes of hair loss and hair growth ... ” Yet consumers continue to believe in it—a triumph of hope in a miracle cure without the expense of more conventional treatment.

The Animal Treatment Concept

For some reason, and it must involve dissonance, many consumers believe that products made for animals are more beneficial than products created for people. Mane and Tail shampoo is based on the proposition that horse hair is three times thicker than human hair; if the product produces positive results on manes, it should be equally productive on human hair. The implication extends beyond cleaning: “We have had many people contact us with reports of hair growth and faster growing hair.” The animal treatment concept also extends to the naming of their skin and nail treatment, Hoofmaker, although the formulation does not seem to derive from a hoof product.

If formulations for horses are good, imagine products made for cows. Two lines spawned from this source are Bag Balm and Udder Cream. Bag Balm has been around for a century as an animal product. Sales of Bag Balm skyrocketed when famed CBS reporter Charles Kuralt told the Bag Balm story in 1983 as one of his feature segments for his On the Road series. The main claim of Bag Balm simply is the soothing of minor cuts and abrasions. Udder Cream puts specific emphasis on its heavy dose of lanolin to restore moisture and smooth dry, chapped skin.

Creating an Intentional Dissonance

There are people who put mayonnaise on their skin, use fabric softeners as insect repellants and believe that if products are beneficial when ingested, they must be equally valuable when applied to the skin. Examples include the anti-inflammatory ingredients glucosamine and chondroitin. Although there are many glucosamine creams on the market, any cream-based or topical products that use glucosamine should be viewed with caution. Putting it in a cream form only sells the product by leveraging the known effectiveness of orally dosed glucosamine, but does nothing to get the glucosamine inside the body where it can be the most beneficial.

A prime example of this dissonance is StriVectin-SD. StriVectin, marketed by Klein-Becker, hit the stores in August 2002 as a product clearly intended to reduce stretch marks caused by pregnancy. By 2004, its department store sales reached US$64 million, with the 6 oz size priced around US$135. That may imply a lot of stretch marks, but consumers actually were using it on facial wrinkles. The trend was encouraged by Klein-Becker, with a new slogan introduced in February 2003: “Better Than Botox.” This featured a treatment well known to consumers but in a form that was less expensive and did not involve a needle.