Moving on a goldmine

Moving on a goldmine

Imagine, really, sitting on a gold mine. Imagine knowing a secret formula for a product, something you could bottle and sell, which made your skin glow, made you look and feel years younger, helped you to lose weight, busted cellulite and helped to shape your body and made you feel fantastic and alive. Imagine if it came with such a wealth of evidence to prove that it worked too. I think it would be such a revolutionary "miracle" product that it would outsell every beauty product and treatment on the market. Imagine knowing that secret formula and not using it. Sitting on a gold mine.

I went to Professional Beauty North at the Manchester Central exhibition hall recently. It's the Northern version of the annual expo for the beauty industry. The first thing I noticed was the hall smelt very strongly of fake tan and it was easy to spot why as I walked around the exhibition, there were a number of portable fake tan kiosks in use for customers eager to take advantage of special show prices for a quick blast of paint.

The beauty industry is very alive, demonstrated by the fact the room was jam packed with people walking around, carrying bags full of goodies they had just purchased. The queues to buy fake nails and fake lashes products were the longest, a segment of the beauty sector which is in apparent boom at present. Then there were the major brands and the expensive creams and treatments which tended to have one of three marketing messages:

1. "We have a secret you don't know because we travelled to a previously unknown corner of the world and found a plant/shrub/stone/water/mineral that you didn't know about and it has secret properties for making you look younger."

2. "We have developed our understanding of science to such a degree that we've been able to use its magic to make you look perfect. It's science you see and we're very clever."

3. "We are foreign, and the laboratoires (said in a French accent) on our Paris industrial estates are much more glamorous that your labs in the UK so we therefore know better how to make you look glamorous."

There was also a lot of high-tech on display for teeth whitening, water softening, cellulite removing, skin smoothing and so on. However, the machines all looked just a bit dated, strange off-white contraptions that would have looked good in an 80s sci-fi film with pumps and tubes and electrodes.

One of the stands had a TV showing a news channel. A caption scrolling across the bottom of the screen said that the UK was the 4th worst in Europe for adult obesity, at which a chap walking past commented "at least we're good at something!"

Outside the exhibition hall, filling up the steps to the main entrance were dozens of young girls, beauty therapists, with gorgeous nails, long eyelashes and a little too good a tan for this time of year - ALL smoking cigarettes.

As you'll probably know already, there is one product which hands-down beats all the above for beauty benefits and that's physical activity. It really is a miracle product which can transform people from the inside out. The best thing is it's free and it's relatively instant with many of the benefits of being active felt soon after getting into the habit. I've not seen a controlled study to back this up, but take a closer look at any athlete taking part in ourdoor sports, marathon, runners, cyclists, skiers, tennis players, triathletes and so on and you'll see just how many of them have flawless skin. A blast of cold fresh air and a bit of sweat and effort do wonders for your complexion.

The problem is that, in the main, we don't market physical activity very well. We talk about long-term health benefits and disease. Open up any strategy on physical activity and you'll see reference to cancers, diabetes, heart disease and strokes in the first paragraph. Pick up a leaflet on the benefits of being more active and you'll find stats and data on relative health risk that most human beings don't really have the time or inclnation to dive into fully enough to understand, let alone be persuaded by.

The buzz at the beauty expo and the sheer size and growth of the beauty industry tell us that many share an almost desperate desire to look and feel their best in the short term, and we can harness that desire in our effort to generate more physical activity participants if only we start to use a language that means something to those people, to sell them our 'miracle product, and offer them the benefits they want.