By Jackie Gonzalez, Senior Vice President, Consulting Services, KHJ Brand Activation
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced that consumers who bought Skechers Toners are eligible for refunds. You’ve seen Toners or maybe their cousins Tone-Ups,Shape-Ups and Resistance Runners; they’re the athletic shoes (and I use the term loosely) with a convex sole. Think Kim Kardashian, Super Bowl commercial.
Turns out that the claim the shoes would make buyers’ "bottom half your better half" was unsubstantiated. As David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau, put it, "The only thing that got a workout was [the consumer’s] wallet."
Thank you, FTC. In honor of the chiropractor who performed Skechers’ "independent"study – Skechers had neglected to point out that it paid the chiropractor to do the study and that the good doctor is married to a Skechers marketing executive – I’m adding another pair of stilettos to my prized collection. Guilt-free.
On the same day the FTC announced the $40 million Skechers settlement, the journal Nature reported that a fully paralyzed man and woman each demonstrated the ability to hold a ball or drink coffee using their brain signals to control a robotic arm. The study team was headed by neuroscientist John Donoghue of Brown University and the Division of Veterans Affairs in Providence, RI, using a robotic arm designed by Segway inventor Dean Kamen. Implants about the size of an aspirin with 100 thin wires protruding into the patients’ brains made it possible.
Donoghue says, "We asked them to imagine moving their arms, and the implant picks up the signal." Unbelievable. Or is it?
It’s unbelievable that an inactive, overweight junk-food addict would have glamorous glutes by wearing the same "rocker-bottom" shoes as Kim Kardashian. It’s equally unbelievable that a fully paralyzed stoke victim could hold and drink her own cup of coffee.
We want to believe either outcome is possible, but only one really is. The movement of a coffee cup several inches was made possible by science. And proven by scientific methods. The "miracle" of effort-free glutes is only possible in name by pseudo-marketing. Even the tiniest movement made possible by science is the far bigger miracle, because it happens to be true.
I cut my teeth in an industry where your reputation as a medical consultant is based on your word. Whether I carried the bag as a sales rep or collaborated with internal marketing and training departments as a VP of Sales, there was one cardinal rule: Don’t say it unless you can prove it.
It’s a weighty responsibility to know that we’re promoting products that affect conditions from BPH to brain trauma, and I don’t know anyone in the business who takes that lightly. Research is king, and by its very definition, the purity of science prevails over the rules of medical marketing. Watchdogs such as the FTC and FDA keep false promises out of the conversation.
Outside our industry, there will always be poseurs claiming to have "independent, clinical data."(Echinacea, anyone?) As an insider, I hope we’ll always believe in miracles. And that some of our best hypotheses prove true in the lab and clinic. As a consumer, I sleep a little better knowing that nothing will hit the market until Margaret Hamburg gives the nod. And that David Vladeck’s covering my…back.
This is the Brand and Beyond™ blog, a new resource for the medical device industry. Brand and Beyond™ is sponsored by KHJ, headquartered in Boston, MA. KHJ is a strategic brand activation firm that is passionate about helping people see and realize what’s possible for themselves and the world around them.