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The Power of Words and Perception

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: February 1, 2012, from the January 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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My response about perceived and real “dangers” prompted someone else to post: “Are you okay with toxins being added to our products ... as long as its within legal limits and not brought to the attention of the consumer?”

“Hard to understand the preventive logic that put [the ingredients cited in the PR] there in the first place,” the original poster responded. “Glad to see [the brand owner] address it with this new line but reluctant to help them make more money since they probably wouldn’t have changed anything without consumer demand.”

I realized what a difficult thing this is for companies to face—and I’m not sure they can turn a topic in their favor with those who are only interested in shouting their narrowly defined opinions/beliefs/agendas as loudly as possible. In the end, in this case, the brand owner tried to do what it felt was the right and smart thing to do (regardless of whether it had any culpability in wrong doing in the first place), but it turns out it couldn’t win regardless. And in the bigger picture, the entire industry loses.

As a colleague noted, a class of ingredient components, beyond the one chemical indicted by the NGO, may have been unilaterally thrown under the bus. In this case, too, a technical editor pointed out, the chemical in the product was, in fact, not even chemically related with those with which it was being grouped and that are actually harmful, and we lamented that agenda-driven groups may now be able to point to this brand’s move to indict others.