September 14, 2011
Years ago, I wrote an obituary for Phyllis Balch, the author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Anyone in the industry knows the influence of Balch's book, how she was a figurehead in the natural products industry. She helped millions navigate the world of supplements. Her passing was big news.
So, I called Penguin/Avery, her publisher, and spoke to a PR rep. The rep didn't have a statement; in fact, he had to confirm that Ms. Balch had actually passed away.
The natural products industry, especially supplements, has always had a lack of star power. I'm not saying that the industry doesn't have its share of charismatic, well-respected leaders, experts, and executives. (Some of have written for this blog.) But we lack a personality with universal appeal, who can be trusted and known by the general public. Since the Food Network's emergence, chefs have emerged as genuine media personalities embracing just causes (think Jamie Oliver). The list of legendary companies associated with cosmetics is longer than my arm.
There is a genuine benefit to star power: It renews the public's faith when bad news arise. Imagine if Hollywood didn't have a recognizable roster of stars: Every withering review of a movie would cause a ripple of panic. But that we know and like Brad Pitt or Emma Stone or whomever, doesn't make us abandon our Netflix queue. I won't see this crappy film about sarcastic astronaut chimps, but I will enjoy "Moneyball" or "The Help."
A working partnership with FDA and FTC is nice. Ditto glowing sales forecasts. But having a supplement celebrity--not a spokesperson or an ally like Dr. Oz--would take the sting off consumer media criticism.
But I really want to hear from you on this: Who would be an ideal "supplement celebrity" and what will it take to get there?
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