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The education of biotechnology consumers


The quality of its marketing will significantly affect the advance of the biotechnology industry with respect to products offered retail to the general public. Members of the public have limited technical understanding and will often be assailed by powerfully expressed views inimical to biotechnology. Unless consumers are carefully and systematically tutored to exercise sensible and informed choice in their retail purchases, and particularly purchases of food, they may well tend to turn away from new products even when they are clearly beneficial in terms of price or quality. The education of the public at large about products is in the hands of marketers and advertisers; it is to their education that this proposal is directed because if they understand the problems and their potential solution, they will be in a better position to achieve a favourable outcome for both consumers and producers. Most marketing practitioners have little knowledge of science generally or of biotechnology in particular; this could severely impede the industry's progress because fears of potential consumers, justified and unjustified, will not be allayed. Without proper understanding by advertisers and marketers, the consuming public may well be unduly influenced by views antagonistic to biotechnological developments.
There have been few if any European-wide cooperative programmes designed to educate practitioners, educators, trainers and opinion-formers about issues in marketing biotechnology products. Most of these novel products and services have hitherto been purchased by well-informed and professional clients in health care, veterinary care, the agribusiness, food processing, environmental interests and some sectors of the chemical, mining and oil industries. However, biotechnology is now beginning directly to impact the retail markets, already giving individual consumers the choice of buying genetically engineered foods, microbial protein and an increasing range of over-the-counter drugs. The present proposal addresses the wider problems of retailing biotechnology, primarily by seeking to educate the educators--those who in advertising and marketing throughout the European Union directly provide for and influence the retail markets. Existing research and survey information on these topics will be correlated: professional conferences will be organized in several EU countries to analyse specific marketing and educational problems in each country in the light of developments in other regions of the EU. Articles and papers will be solicited for publication in learned journals, trade papers and in more popular magazines directed to the public at large; responses to them will be evaluated. The programme will consider specifically the problem that while "new" is one of the most powerful forces in marketing, It can lose effectiveness and become counterproductive when confronted by arguments that a product is "against nature". In part, the solution lies in the optimum use of language and visual images; inappropriate usage may have effects opposite to those intended.
Specific issues include: how to use "new" without generating consumer resistance; when, why and how to emphasise the biotechnological origin of a product or service; when that emphasis is counterproductive; how to increase the positive marketing power of "biotechnology"; how (and when) to use branding to achieve these objectives.

Funding Scheme

CON - Coordination of research actions


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