Marketing’s Role in Fighting Obesity

The marketing profession is ridiculed often for contributing to a society that craves instant gratification. Also, Americans on the whole have reached a level of affluence to the point that we tend to be more concerned with satisfying wants than meeting basic needs. Nowhere is this dangerous intersection of wants and self-satisfaction more evident than around our waistlines. We love to eat! Food marketers and restaurants have flourished by integrating their offerings into our busy lives. However, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Heart Forum provide a somber picture of how our food cravings will impact us in the future.

According to figures published in USA Today this week, the obesity rate (defined by CDC as an adult having a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher) will reach 50% in the US by 2030. More troubling is that 13 states are projected to have 60% or more of their population meeting the criterion for obesity. The fallout from a population in which more people are obese is evidenced in many ways including:

  • Higher healthcare costs
  • Lost productivity in the workplace
  • Shorter life expectancy
  • Decreased quality of life

The above “benefits” of a lifestyle in which dietary choices lead to the above outcomes are hardly sought out, yet as a country we appear to be on track to do exactly this to ourselves.

Personal responsibility is the greatest force for change to reverse the obesity trend. We have to make choices that are in the best interests of our health long term. And, regulations such as New York City requiring calories on restaurant menus and its more aggressive ban on large sugary drinks are efforts to help people make wise choices when unwilling to make the decision themselves. Now, it is time for the marketing industry to step up its involvement in the cause. We have the tools and technologies to spread information and influence minds and hearts.

The positioning of an anti-obesity campaign does not need to be (nor should be) negative in tone – cut back on this, you can’t have that, etc. Instead, creating a position of a healthy lifestyle and the resulting benefits should be the foundation upon which we fight the battle against obesity. As Zig Ziglar says, you don’t pay the price for success, you enjoy the benefits. You pay the price for failure. Marketers need to bring their talents to the table (pun intended) to work toward a shift in which we stem the rise of obesity in this country. Otherwise, we will pay a price for inaction.

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Author: Don Roy

Marketing educator, blogger, & consultant- Having fun with all of the above!

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