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Flouride and Other Marketing Missteps

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While I can?t take credit for it because I do not know how many other of us who did the product evaluation made it a point to comment on that misspelling, shortly after the conclusion of the product evaluation, a correction was made to the product label displayed on the company web site.

Why all this distress about a misspelled word? Well, in my case had I not needed to use the product and therefore come to value DEFEND+PLUS Prophy Paste as a very good prophy paste, I would not have bothered to try it. In fact, based solely on the misspelling of the word 'fluoride', I would have made a decision not to purchase it. I also most likely would have made a point to tell others about this marketing misstep that might have dissuaded them from trying it as well. Fortunately this was not the outcome because I had shared the product with other dental hygienists who also came to appreciate its stain removal properties.

It would not be the first time I had disallowed a dental product contingent on the image the company had created for it. For a number of years I used a particularly egregious advertisement from a dental hygiene publication as example of what not to do for my dental hygiene students. This piece of marketing genius had a 'dental hygienist', a model who was obviously clueless about dental hygiene, holding a mouth mirror and an instrument like a knife and fork as though she were preparing to slice a steak, not scale a tooth. I couldn?t tell you now even if you paid me what product was being heralded in that ad since I was totally distracted and appalled by the misstep depicting the use of dental instruments. I doubt that the manufacturer had it mind that I would use their advertisement as a teaching aid for improper application of the modified pen grasp.

I?m certainly not savvy to the process of product placement in professional publications; however, am I being unrealistic to expect that someone should have noticed the same thing I did and not let the ad run as is? I have read and seen similar marketing missteps with infection control products as well. I?m immediately put off by a marketing image or turn of phrase that is meant to describe a product?s advantages but instead glaringly highlights the dental knowledge gap of the copy writer or photo shoot stylist. I have since stopped using the 'knife and fork' ad as a visual aid for instrumentation grasp because in hindsight, it didn?t reflect well on my profession. I felt that getting a laugh at the expense of dental hygiene was a misstep on my part with my impressionable students. There would always be the one student who would ask how the ad got into a professional journal in the first place; a good question without a good answer from a future dental product consumer. A few more good questions?

Wouldn?t it be beneficial for a dental product manufacturer to receive feedback on the marketing materials during a product evaluation in addition to the product itself? Wouldn?t having more positive and accurate representation of the dental professional within an advertisement help the reader focus on the product instead of on the potential marketing misstep?

Participating as a dental product evaluator has helped me become a more discerning purchaser. And shouldn?t that be the goal of an effective marketing campaign too?

F.l.u.o.r.i.d.e. What?s in your spellchecker?

Denise M Heater, RDH, MSEd, is a full-time faculty member in the SUNY Canton Dental Hygiene Program located in Rome, New York, as the lead freshmen pre-clinical and clinical instructor. She also works clinically in a private practice in Syracuse, New York.

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