by Stefania Revelli
Corporations, consumers and our reelected commander in chief are facing a cultural climate where health looks like a battlefield. Who’s responsible? Who’s to blame? And, most important, who’s going to pay for it all? Indeed, Americans’ formerly “fun” habits are turning into very public vices. This Halloween marked the year’s biggest candy-buying season, accounting for about 7% of candy makers’ annual sales, according to the National Confectioners Association (MarketWatch.com, 8 October 2012). Yet, according to a Halloween Consumer Study (PDF), 70% of parents would prefer that their children receive more non-candy treats at their neighbors’ doors.
Candy consumption is even among the top ways that Americans “waste” money, according to Yahoo. Also on that list: tobacco (low-income New Yorkers spend a quarter of their annual salary on cigarettes), alcohol ($50 billion per year spent in the US) and sodas ($76 billion per year in the US). Not included in any of those figures, but suggested by the article, were the indirect, long-term health costs.
Personal health is more publicly visible now, and it’s more frequently raising questions of social responsibility. A report from Allstate says that obese drivers and passengers use more gas — 1 billion gallons of “wasted” gas per year in the US, to be exact. According to the US Energy Department, an extra 100 pounds in someone’s car can reduce MPG by up to 2% (ChicagoTribune.com, 8 October 2012).
Consumers are looking for supportive allies when it comes to health. Marketers, regardless of their political affiliations, need to demonstrate how brands help the buyer’s health first, and everyone else’s wellbeing a close second. Everyone — but especially those marketing snacks, sweets or other indulgences — can benefit by balancing fun and escape with “offsetting” campaigns. It’s time to turn marketers’ drive for “share of stomach” into striving toward a mutually beneficial goal.