I recently watched the documentary, Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball. Kokoyakyu is a serious deal in Japan, and players compete fiercely to win the National Championship. But their efforts are characterized by a respect I rarely see in American sports:
"Sport is like martial arts. We don't aim to expose our opponent's weaknesses but to exert our potential strengths. Our opponent is not the enemy."
(A Kokoyakyu coach made this comment...well, something very close to that. I scribbled it on scrap paper while watching the film.)
Too often, advertisers ignore the Kokoyakyu approach and take advantage of consumers' weaknesses and insecurities: Thinning hair never bother you before? Well, it should. And now that it does, here's a product to make it grow back. Or, Afraid to go to the beach in a bikini? Well, you should be. And now that you are, here's a product to reduce that belly pooch of yours.
This is a rather twisted way of "helping" consumers because it essentially demeans them - or at least exposes an already present weakness - and then offers hollow condolences. How kind.
Perhaps product bullies could learn a lesson or two from Kokoyakyu.