MRF Blog

Guest Post: Not Pretty? No Problem. Buy a Tan!

November 14, 2013 | Categories: Prevention
How’s this for a business strategy— take the fact some women tend to suffer from low self-esteem, particularly when it comes to their appearance, find out when women are likely to be feeling the worst about themselves, then launch an advertising campaign for beauty products meant to make people feel more attractive during those times! In other words, take advantage of consumers’ emotional well-being to sell your product.
Does that sound right to you? This is an amazingly crass and mercenary approach to earning market share, but it is exactly the technique recently championed by a marketing firm, according to this article in The Atlantic.  
If this is, as The Atlantic claims, “the grossest advertising strategy of all time” I have to believe that the approach used by tanning salons is a close runner up. Science has shown UV radiation (both from indoor tanning beds and the sun) damages the DNA in skin cells and that damage can lead to premature aging and even melanoma. We know that most models and celebrities avoid “real” tans, but instead get spray tans, because of that damage. Yet the tanning industry targets young women—a population highly susceptible of low self-esteem —and exploits them at their most vulnerable.
“When’s the last time he stared at your personality?”
“Who doesn’t want that soft, healthy, dark-skinned look? Tanning is the quickest way to improve your appearance…”
“Look Good. Feel Great.”
These are real phrases from tanning ads, aimed at convincing young women that tanning is the best way to feel attractive. Tanning salons market to young people with messages that equate being tan with being attractive, healthy and popular.
When a beauty product uses predatory techniques to leverage poor self-esteem into more sales, the person targeted by the advertising campaign might spend money unnecessarily and is a bit poorer for it all. When the tanning industry uses the same (or worse) techniques to entice young women into tanning beds, they consciously expose their customers to a product known to cause cancer. The consequences of that are far more significant than just wasting money.
What do you think about this advertising technique used by some indoor tanning salons? 
Written by Mary Antonucci, the MRF's National Director of Volunteer Services

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