Problem Solution Perception Gap

Lifebuoy Soap AdA classic form of persuasive communication is problem solution advertising. Countless consumer brands built their fortunes by laying out a problem — for example body odor — and offering up a brand — like Lifebuoy deodorant soap — as the solution. It’s simple and relevant communication that solves a problem by selling a solution.

Hyping the Problem

Unfortunately, too much public health communication about obesity is fixated upon hyping the problem without offering up any real solution. “People don’t understand the problem with their weight status” is a recurring theme that’s outlived its usefulness.

In Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, Shan Liu and colleagues found that approximately one-third of Chinese Americans in New York City do not have an accurate perception of their body weight status. They go on to recommend educational interventions on normal values for waist circumference.

Good luck with that.

Perhaps wisely, people tune out even urgent messages about a problem in the absence of a solution for that problem. Instead they focus on problems they can do something about. Messaging about healthy food and physical activity incessantly bombards people with obesity. But the efficacy of diet and exercise to solve the problem is, for most people, unimpressive. Other options, like medical and surgical treatment, are sealed away behind formidable barriers to access.

Offering Solutions

This is not complicated. If you want people to do something about a problem, you have to offer them a real solution. You have to make it a heck of a lot easier than it presently is to gain access to real medical care for obesity.

So we better get to work on offering up better, more accessible solutions. Hyping the problem only serves to dull the public’s interest.

Click here for the study by Liu et al and here for more about problem/solution advertising.

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2 Responses to “Problem Solution Perception Gap”

  1. June 01, 2015 at 8:28 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    While fear is a powerful motivator, it has consequences, especially when the communications appear to be focused on inducing fear, only.

    Thanks for laying this out, Ted.


    • June 01, 2015 at 8:48 am, Ted said:

      Fear in the absence of options is just stress. Thanks, Joe!