Tuesday 2¢: Market the Problem

Until an hour ago, I did not know what a paraben is. Is this important? Well, maybe to J&J’s advertisers. In this week’s Tuesday 2 cents, I suggest that sometimes we need to market the problem, not just the solution.


Do you know what parabens are? I admit I didn’t until just now. But, as I walked into our local supermarket, I saw a poster proclaiming that J&J baby shampoo is “paraben free”.

Not the actual poster, but the same message 🙂

Now I accept, I am no longer in the market for baby shampoo (or, to be brutally honest with my hairline, any kind of shampoo at all), but if you are in the market for baby shampoo, for this message to be effective, J&J would need you to know what parabens are, or at least believe them to be bad.

As it turns out, parabens are a manufactured preservative and are a big deal in the beauty industry, there is some debate as they also naturally occur, but they are used in a bunch of beauty products and are considered bad for us and the world (certainly according to Elle magazine).

Ah hah, I thought, my ignorance of parabens is my consumer habits, gender, and life stage, but a quick poll of my teenage daughters and wife, did not provide a resounding yes. Consumers that definitely buy beauty products and are seemingly unaware.

I’ve digressed.

If you are going to sell a solution, you need to ensure that enough of the world knows the problem, especially if you are going to use the language of your industry to explain the benefits.

I would have understood the J&J ad if it said “free from cancer-causing crap” or if there had been a 3-minute commercial during the European Cup Final explaining the science behind the harmful effects of parabens on the planet.

OK, I’m kidding about those ad strategies, but hopefully, you get my point. If you are selling into a new market, a new product or have a solution outside your industry mainstream, you either work your message so it’s clearly understood or invest in marketing the problem.