A friend of mine was assigned quite a difficult task in one of his business marketing classes: As a birth control company, use abstinence as a selling point.
It seems easy if you don’t think about the monetary aspect. In essence, you’re asking your consumer base to not buy your product–to not even need it.
Or are you?
To target teenagers and promote abstinence could potentially sell to other demographics. Promoting abstinence portrays the brand in a positive light. Adult women, who still require the product, will appreciate the positive message and may choose your brand over others who ignore the issue of underage sex. Even more specifically, mothers of teenagers may choose your brand of birth control to buy for their teens simply because the brand has proven that it cares about the issue.
It’s an intriguing concept, this backwards advertising. What is important here is that the product being advertised is a necessity. The women being targeted will buy birth control. It isn’t a question of whether or not to buy–it’s which brand. So the birth control company selling abstinence will most likely not persuade these women to become abstinent, maintaining the consumer base. Instead, you are building trust with the audience.
Cigarette companies could utilize this as well. The people who buy cigarettes will most likely continue to buy them, but if there is a brand who somehow sympathizes with their desire to quit, the consumers may affiliate themselves with that brand. It’s about necessity.
This sort of advertising is essentially making the consumer feel better about themselves. The brands are saying, “you don’t need this–but if you do need it, buy ours.” It’s still selling something that may be harmful, and yet, the brand is still sending a positive message. So does this positive message balance out with the ultimate desire to still sell a product that may harm the consumer? (In the case of cigarettes, not birth control).
These brands are going to sell their products no matter what. They might as well promote a healthy cause while they’re at it, even if it has the potential to hurt their sales.