Not So Optimistic About the "Anti-Aging" Marketplace

Glenn Reynolds made the following comment a few days ago in a post on Ray Kurzweil, the Singularity and healthy life extension:

Meanwhile, here's evidence that a lot of people want to see progress in aging research: "Forget '40 is the new 30.' Now even twentysomethings are joining the quest for eternal youth by using anti-aging products and wrinkle treatments." Think how big the market will be when the products actually work.

I don't think that this is the psychology at work here - people don't associate "anti-aging" the cosmetics branding to longevity research or scientific efforts to actually hold back the aging process. It's not even the same association as "anti-aging" the health brand. In the cosmetics case, people say "anti-aging" and hear "high class, better looking" and in the health case they hear "healthier." Just because the branding contains the words "anti" and "aging" does not mean that people actually think of either of those terms in a way that includes their stand-alone meanings.

One might say that my own life is something of a laboratory for studying the way in which people overload a word. Know me for long enough and your brain will carve out a whole new association for the word "Reason" - without you being all that aware of it until it is pointed out. That new association is pure name, with none of the meaning of the original word. The same thing happens with brands.

If there really was a significant spill-over of sentiment and support from consumers of "anti-aging" brands to meaningful, scientific anti-aging research - or even between different "anti-aging" brands in the marketplace - I don't think we'd be seeing quite the same sort of hostile confrontation between brand-holders and scientists as takes place today. More to the point, I suspect that volunteer organizations like the Methuselah Foundation would be having far less of an uphill struggle than has been the case to attain their present level of success, and scientists backing rapid progress towards working anti-aging therapies would not be struggling to raise large-scale funding and fight conservatism within their ranks.

Looking back at the past two decades, the pro-healthy life extension communities of the time built up a very effective distribution mechanism, but failed to overcome the very same hurdles we struggle with today: how to generate widespread public support for healthy life extension and direct large-scale funding into meaningful anti-aging and longevity research. So now we see the distribution mechanism spinning its wheels on branding, while the present generation must address the same problems: how do we develop useful anti-aging technologies in time for us to benefit?

Technorati tags: ,

Comments

"I don't think that this is the psychology at work here - people don't associate "anti-aging" the cosmetics branding to longevity research or scientific efforts to actually hold back the aging process."

"[R]esearch" or "scientific efforts" may not be their first associations, but I do think they think "looking younger".

"It's not even the same association as 'anti-aging' the health brand. In the cosmetics case, people say "anti-aging" and hear "high class, better looking" and in the health case they hear 'healthier.'"

I think they think "younger, and therefore healthier and better looking". Everyone knows looks and health deteriorate with age. In fact, many 'anti-age' products openly claim to make people look '10 years younger', and people knows very well what that means in terms of health and looks.

(Which is not to say that people would embrace real anti-aging science, which many probably would think of as unnatural.)

Posted by: ND at December 30th, 2005 6:02 AM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.