Marketing to the Overweight American

The MPDA Conference: Marketing to the Overweight American will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Silver Spring, MD on September 27-28, 2011. The MPDA Conference: Marketing to the Overweight American is designed for marketers of products or services such as drugs, devices, diets, supplements, meal replacements, and services designed to help overweight Americans lose weight and improve their quality of life. This conference will feature best in class speakers as well as case studies, market analyses, behavioral research, and regulatory discussions designed to make sure your weight loss products and services are marketed in the most effective fashion to the consumers who are most in need of their benefits. This conference is a great way for anyone in the weight loss industry to immediately improve the ROI of their weight loss product by better understanding the target market of the overweight American as well as benchmark against best practices from other products in your industry and viable substitute products for your target consumer in other industries.

This was forwarded to me on a body positive listserve that I’m part of.  I haven’t been able to find it on Google so it’s unverified, but stick with me a minute on it:

If it’s a real thing and  if I thought I could go spy on this conference without going all medieval on someone I would.

In the meantime, here’s my guess at the session line-up:

Manipulating Statics:  How to convince people of anything, and get the news to run it as fact.  Case Study:  Ob*sity costs the workplace billions of dollars

Lowering Self-Esteem:  People will buy more weight loss products if we can convince them that they can’t love themselves until they are thin.

Advanced Conflation:  We can sell a ton of crap if we can make people believe that health and weight are the same thing.

VFHT- The Secret Weapon:  Combat those pesky healthy fat people with the Vague Future Health Threat by telling them that they can’t possibly be fat and healthy because they will die someday.

Lessons from The Biggest Loser: Convince people to pay you and thank you for treating them as sub-human.  Bonus points if you make them cry and vomit.

Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children:  Bring kids into it to increase the panic response and decrease logic among those still noticing our horrible research and success rates.  Get CNN and the First Lady involved if you can.

Sell ‘Em Anything:  Once we’ve convinced people that the only way to be healthy, attractive, and worthy of love is to be thin, we can sell them almost anything. Case study:  The Twinkie Diet

At the end of the day, let’s remember that this is on us.  Nobody sells stuff to us, – we buy it.  Whether or not this particular conference is actually happening,  we know that a  lot of time, energy and money is expended by the diet industry figuring out how best to get fat people to buy their stuff.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say if any of the stuff actually did what they say it does, they wouldn’t need to have a conference or all that marketing to sell it to people.

Let’s be smarter than hype and marketing.

7 thoughts on “Marketing to the Overweight American

  1. Ok, maybe it’s the pain meds talking (that’s very possible given my current state of mind), but I’m a bit confused. Was this sent to you as a “Hey! Take a look at this because seriously, what we need to do is make people feel like shit,” or was it sent more as a warning because it exists? Since you said it was sent to you from a body positive listserve, I’m apt to believe the latter, but given everything that I’ve seen as of late, the former is entirely possible.

    Btw, your assessment of what this type of conference would consist of seems pretty spot on, and you’re right, we don’t get sold stuff, we buy it. Sometimes that can be good (um, hello, commercials for the upcoming season of Doctor Who, anyone?), but more often than not, it’s not.

    Yeeeah, I’m thinking maybe my poor brain needs to go into shutdown mode. Maybe even a reboot is in order.

    Ironically, I’m writing this while a commercial for that “FullBar” thing is on. *sigh* Why can’t we just stop buying crap?

  2. Karen,

    It was sent as a “can you even believe this shit” message from a listserve that I’m on. Ostensibly it’s a real thing, I just couldn’t verify it independently so I wanted to be clear about that.

    Hope you are feeling better soon 🙂


  3. Wow. And so true – if diet products worked then they would need zero marketing, much less a conference about how to cover the low (80% ?) failure rate.

  4. I wonder what would happen if this conference (if real, of course) were to be infiltrated with vendors who market to fat folks without the Obesity Crisis hype. Shout out to my fave clothing folks, Holy Clothing, for making lovely stuff in large sizes AND for marketing without the usual “ifs, ands, or buts.” No “tummy slimming panels” here, no “look lovely despite your size”—this company celebrates all who wear their outfits. I wonder how the conference attendees would respond to the radical view of “folks come in many sizes, let’s market to them, straight up and no b.s.”

    So, who are your faves who know how to do it right?

  5. You know what’s so interesting here is that there’s obviously a pretty big market for products that might actually help “The Overweight American” that have nothing to do with weight loss. Better clothing and the seat belt extenders you mentioned elsewhere come to mind, and I’m sure that there’s no lack of business-savvy folks out there who could dream up plenty of products that are unnecessary but that do ostensibly provide needed services for fat people. I wonder how much of the “overweight American” market is actually about products for the overweight American, or for the American trying to lose weight, you know? Wouldn’t it be funny if this is one area where people shied away from capitalism?!

  6. For what’s it worth, I went as a spy to such a conference about 15 years ago. It was interesting to listen to competitors try to outtalk each other, and the self-promotion was as expected. I did find a couple of surprising allies–people who directed medically-oriented weight-loss programs who were beginning to question the value of their work.

    The best speaker (only from the perspective of the conference itself) was a marketing/accounting expert from Weight Watchers. He talked about fat customers as if they were “widgets” in an economic textbook.

    One speaker was from the bariatric physicians’ association. At the time, they were split as to the value of WLS versus diet and exercise. (They still are.) His own premise was “diets don’t work.” He wasn’t very popular at the conference. 🙂

    I impressed everybody by taking lots of notes. Little did they know…

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