Revamp sunscreen image

With skin cancer continuing its reign at the top of the list of annual cancer diagnoses, perhaps it’s time for sunscreen to have a transformational marketing makeover.

For example, we remember a time when simple aspirin was thought of exclusively as a tool for headache relief. Every household had a bottle of the tiny white pills on the shelf, never dreaming it might also have broader use as preventive medication. Now that many doctors are recommending their patients take a small daily dose of aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke, perhaps sunscreen manufacturers should take their cue from the aspirin folks and start insisting consumers consider a daily dose of sunscreen essential to their health.

For starters, they should look at a name change. While accurate, the term sunscreen effectively narrows the consumer demographic to those who are consciously aware of their potential for exposure and predisposed to proactively protect their skin. Here in the Northwest, the sun can be a fickle friend, often hiding behind a layer of cloud cover. What many don’t realize is that the sun’s damaging UV rays have superhero power and can penetrate most of the clouds that serve to break up the blue over our Puget Sound skies.

As for a new name, maybe something along the lines of anti-cancer magic prevention lotion would be more attention-getting. Or, they could capture the hearts of consumers by taking a page from the lucrative cosmetic industry and begin marketing their product as an anti-aging elixir that will not only serve to prevent cancer, but to lower the risk of unpleasant lines, spots and wrinkles. Along with a snazzy marketing makeover, an effective educational effort is also in order. Maybe a “School House Rock” approach might work to help explain the difference between UVA and UVB and the significance of those numbers that follow the initials SPF. It could also teach the essential nature of a broad-spectrum lotion, which serves as a one-two punch to help block both UVB rays, which can cause squamous, and basel cell carcinoma and UVA rays which can lead to the more deadly melanoma.

The American Cancer Society even has a catchy slogan they can use to build the campaign. Their “seek, slip, slop, slap” approach would be perfect set to music.

Seek shade!

Slip on a covering!

Slop on sunscreen!

Slap on a hat!

And don’t forget the important second chorus: Take these steps every day — especially if you live in the cloud-covered Northwest, because Washington state ranks first nationally for women and fifth for men with malignant melanoma.