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One of the funny things about writing columns like these is the fact that there is hardly any reaction to what is written. But when I meet people during my trips around the world, it is clear that many are reading what I write. They may disagree, since I am as provocative as possible to get readers to write to me, and think that “this time he's gone too far" but it seems that readers' level of tolerance is infinite, and I cannot enthuse them enough to react vehemently. However, this column is being read, demonstrating the power of the written word. Where is this going, you may ask? I want to talk about communication, a topic I have been concerned with lately.
The personal care industry communicates often, organizing conferences, talking to one another, and filling cosmetic journals, magazines and periodicals with writings. The objective of the industry, when push comes to shove, is to sell--but if the industry wants to sell, it would make sense for the industry to talk to customers, the users of our products, instead of to each other. Marketers of suppliers talk to the manufacturing world or techies, and marketers of these manufacturing companies talk to the ultimate customer, a nontechie. So, here, with these thoughts in mind, I embarked on a process that will decrease my popularity: investigating the effectiveness of one-way communication.
I recently attended the SCS Cosmetic Science Symposium in Chepstow, Wales or England. The border was on the grounds of a golf course that surrounded the hotel and even the staff was not sure of where the border was. It felt like the perfect place to discuss the boundaries between cosmetics and drugs and “us and them.” In this scenario, the cosmetic scientists ("us") were the good guys and the cosmetic consumers were the bad guys ("them"), brainwashed by tabloid journalists.
Tabloids are newspapers that perhaps you and I do not read but that are read by our neighbors--and we all have neighbors and are also neighbors to someone else; therefore, we all read these things. Of course, we never look at the scantily clad pictures of women but we undoubtedly read the highly interesting articles informing the public that they should buy natural cosmetics, that chemicals are bad for them, that our products should be chemical-free and if that is not possible, they should be at least fragrance-, preservative- and paraben-free.
Because you and I are both cosmetic scientists, we know that this is propaganda, but where is this propaganda coming from? Many assign blame to the journalists that write incorrect pieces about our industry and how we do everything wrong. It is, however, not the journalists that are to blame for this slam against the personal care industry but rather the industry itself. Wait a minute. Are we responsible for our own mess? The answer is: Yes.