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The ‘I’ve solved my problem, now I can solve all yours’ trap

November 13, 2017

I was listening to a radio segment on the phenomena of life coaches today (Life Matters, ‘What’s driving the rise of life coaches’ with Amanda Smith) and something the doctor taking part in the discussion said reminded me of the situation we face in the cosmetic industry all.of.the.time  I’m talking about the ‘I’ve solved my problem, now I can solve all yours’ people.

I don’t think anyone goes into a brand (or into life coaching) thinking that they are doing this but from the outside it is easy to see that this is exactly what is happening and sooner or later it will come unstuck.

Some examples of where I’ve seen this situation in my realm of work are:

  • People who became healthy after giving up ‘chemicals’ and therefore go on to create a ‘chemical’ free cosmetic range to help others become healthy.
  • People who cured their eczema with one particular ingredient or formula and create a range around that ingredient.
  • People who found a cure for their own acne via a certain regimen and use their experience to ‘treat’ others.
  • People whose baby responds well to their massage oil and sleeps through the night so they package that up and sell it as a sleepy cure.

But to be honest it could be anything.

Some of the above, if not all of the above are often as good a reason as any to get into the cosmetic industry, after all what is more motivating than finding a cure for your own situation and wanting to use that to help others.  There is nothing wrong with that public referral type of selling or idea sharing but where it becomes dangerous is when personal referrals and personal experience gets dressed up as professional truth.  The line that gets crossed is the line that takes you from an individual with a compelling story to a consultant with a prescriptive solution. The problem with this leap into the prescriptive is that it is often undertaken without  supervision (qualified reflection on own processes and working through the problems that come up) or evidence – one persons success does not a trial make.  Supervision is essential for all therapists/ health care professionals as is professional development and evidence is what differentiates quackery from science (not that I’m saying all science is based on GOOD or even TRUTHFUL evidence, just that evidence is a requirement of science).

So what to do?

Listening to that short radio segment was a bit of a reminder to me that I do need to talk about this with my clients and my students. I need to challenge them to move beyond their personal ‘cure alls’ and biases so that they can work towards finding some truth in that unstructured enthusiasm as there is always a little bit of scientific truth behind these personal success stories and it is often just a matter of measuring and testing it appropriately.  The danger of not doing this early in your brand owning life is that you build a brand based on a false-hood, part-truth or wishful thought, a brand that really doesn’t live up to what you had promised.  Then again, the danger of testing your wonder cure is that it turns out to be a fluke, not that wonderful or only half the story and that can be disappointing but I’d argue that it is better to be disappointed early rather than later so you can re-group and fill in the gaps with something that has better efficacy behind it.

As you will see from this evidence triangle, case reports (personal stories), opinions (such as mine in this blog) and letters (from a doctor etc) are weak evidence. That doesn’t mean they are ZERO evidence, it just means that you need a lot of them together to have any chance of finding a commonality or pattern between the cases.  The sad thing for me with regards to the internet is that it is easier to find 10 blogs claiming that eczema can be cured with coconut oil than to find 10 that dispute or question that from an evidence based perspective.  This helps to drive the conclusion that the information is true, tested and validated when, in reality it is just a half-truth or mis-informed opinion repeated.  The bottom line with these weak forms of evidence is the credentials and process of the individuals involved. Are they trained in scientific thinking, are they displaying bias, are they profiting from an opinion and if so which outcome do they profit from and is that likely to be corruptible?  To help work out if an outcome may be corruptible one can check to see if the outcome is something they are in control of or invested in personally – for example a brand owner selling a cure is in control of the brand that gains popularity by promoting its self as a cure and also profits from the selling of that cure. There is a chance for corruption here because of the concentration of power but this doesn’t mean there will be corruption, just that we should be mindful.  On the other hand  a scientist promoting a science base testing approach may well have some control over how the science is carried out but can’t control the outcomes as the outcomes may not be controllable, especially not if the outcomes are measured by customers or test subjects such as in a panel test or questionnaire. Also even if the scientist controls the lab that publishes the initial favourable results, other labs have to repeat that for the results to be valid and no scientist owns and controls all the labs so their lies, bias or mis-directed methodology will eventually show up just so long as there is transparency and reproducibility in the methodology.

For me, the bottom line is that while we might all come into this industry for different reasons and via different pathways once we are in here we have to accept that while hype and hyperbole may be the wings that launch a brand it is evidence-based results that keep the brands heart ticking.

If you are wanting to invest for the long-term, invest wisely and it is wise to remember that just because you have solved your problem, doesn’t mean you are qualified to solve them all.

Amanda x


One Comment leave one →
  1. Ally McBeagle permalink
    November 17, 2017 4:49 am

    I just found your website! It was an honor reading this article. A chemist by education, my professional life led me into the pharmaceutical industry (as a writer, then QA for clinical trials);with a passion for cosmetic products so many time I have wanted to write a treatise in comments on a blog – but of course, I refrain most of the time, knowing I don’t have a cosmetic but rather just a scientific perspective. All that to say this was a very informative article, with which I agree 100%. I will have much fun reading others and have you bookmarked now! Thank you for taking the time to address such important topics in a blog, while running a consulting business!

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