Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.
According to the latest NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll, almost one-third of those surveyed made losing weight a New Year’s goal. Plenty of marketing platforms take advantage of these New Year’s hopes and dreams by escalating promotions for their weight-loss solutions between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Special K cereal launched their What Will You Gain? campaign with an interactive promotional booth in New York’s Times Square. Special K representatives invited female passersby to step onto an oversized scale. The brave ones who took the leap discovered that the scale didn’t actually display body weight. (Whew!) Instead, it offered a “personalized” word of encouragement, such as courage, moxie, confidence, or joy. This character trait is what could be gained if the participant lost that extra burdensome weight.
The women featured in the TV spot seemed to love the idea.
My feelings are mixed. I see some good things, as well as some troubling things.
Let’s start with the positive. It’s true that losing weight isn’t all about the number on the scale. There are benefits to being a healthy size that have nothing to do with your weight. And especially for people trying to reach a healthier state, it’s easy to become obsessed with seeing a certain number on the scale by counting more numbers (calories and carbs and fat, oh my!). Special K has done a great job of taking the focus off the scale and onto the person’s heart.
But that leads me to this campaign’s negative. Character traits are not linked to numbers on a scale. Someone at a healthy body weight is not guaranteed freedom from fear, withdrawal, uncertainty, and discouragement. Certainly the achievement of your health goal will be a positive experience, but it won’t be a cure-all for what ails your heart.
We have to watch for messages like these that tell us an external problem is causing our character defects. Scripture tells us, quite clearly, that our hearts are in desperate need of life and health which only God can provide. We cannot blame our character flaws on anything other than sin having its way with us.
So yes, be healthy and stick to your New Year’s goals. But make sure you aren’t counting on an external fix for an internal issue.