Credibility and trust. It takes a lifetime to build and an instant to shatter. You need to understand that your credibility is one of your strongest assets in business. People will back you if you’re credible. People will disown you if you’re not.
Before a I jump into assessing whether multivitamins work, it’s important to understand the crux of credibility. As this is the real underlying business lesson.
You can lend your credibility to a causes to help boost its profile. The Royal Family are geniuses at this approach. When assessing a cause, some issues are easy to get behind (child abuse, saving orangutans). Others require a bit more risk (admiration for a political party or coming out). But all in all, these causes exchange your profile and brand image for more publicity for the cause.
Enter the grey area of celebrity endorsements. When done well and appropriately, celebrity endorsements do work. The product gets a celebrity halo effect and more sales hit the bottom line. The celebrity is paid. Smiles all round.
But the celebrity endorser needs to recognise they just can’t walk away once their pay cheque clears. If they endorse a product and something goes a bit smelly with that product, that reflects badly on the celebrity. People wonder whether the celebrity was lying, just in it for the money or didn’t care.
A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder)
Take the multivitamin industry – which seems to be all the rage at the moment. Type – ‘do multi vitamins work?’ into Google. You’ll see plenty of content, even from trusted health websites that have health professionals. Most of this content is negative or at least indicative that multi-vitamins aren’t needed if you have a balanced diet.
The efficacy of multivitamins ‘for all’ is therefore not clear cut. Which is why I’m so surprised that celebrities with a well credentialed health backgrounds have put their hand up to endorse multivitamins, when the science isn’t black and white.
Swisse for instance, market their multivitamins with the definitive statement: ‘You’ll feel better on Swisse.’ So Swisse is effectively saying that everyone will feel better on Swisse, regardless of their health situation. If I was a medical professional, I would be uncomfortable attaching my name and reputation to this water tight statement. Some may discount this tagline as being ‘puffery’. But I think it’s dangerous to do so. No study has found that multivitamins reap benefits everyone. So why are multivitamin companies able to infer that they do?
Interestingly, the Therapeutic Goods Council put the heat on Swisse recently, forcing them to remove the slogan ‘You’ll feel better on Swisse’. And to ditch a few ads. In response, Swisse moved that they weren’t given enough time to answer the allegations before this ruling was made. Swisse won the right to be given more time (and for the ruling to be struck out in the interim).
It’s important to note that the win for Swisse didn’t counter the Therapeutic Good Council’s claims. Instead it provided Swisse with more time to argue against them. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. And it will be interesting to see who remains a celebrity endorser once this saga ends.
In answer to the question, do multivitamins work? There are two answers, both revolving around perception and reality. The current perception is set by the industry advertising (Swisse reportedly has a $50 million marketing budget this year). They are telling us that multivitamins do work. Other sources indicate the reality is a bit more grey.
If a future judgement finds that multivitamins have limited health benefits – or at least benefits that only apply to a subset of people, this perception could change. Especially if the story was picked up by general PR. This would have the potential of changing public perception which in turn could alienate those celebrities who have endorsed the product.
Beware who you endorse. Beware the organisations that your business endorses. Conduct due diligence and if in doubt say no. You can’t afford to have your brand image tarnished.
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I think belief in the product is the key of the issue. I could never “believe” in multi-vitamins enough to ever endorse such a product (if I were publicly visible that is). However, when you believe in something, and I mean really believe – I think people can be a little more forgiving when things go awry.
Having said that – health and pharmaceuticals are completely different. No matter how much you believe in a product of this nature – if it comes out that the product does nothing, or worse, is detrimental to a person’s health – you’re finished.
Thanks Trent. This is a divisive topic. Multivitamins are a billion dollar industry, with shades of grey all over the place.