Friday, July 16, 2004

Good Old Chocolate
Today I wanted to share with you an example of the law of unintended consequences: how brainstorming about promotional ideas for the book made me realize that very few in the consumer industries will benefit from women managing their menstrual periods. However, once I logged in to compose the post I noticed that the control panel had changed. Among the new things, an "upload image/file" icon--lovely! So now I can hardly wait to regale you with pictures of birth control methods. Before we get to that, here's a quick summary of my insight. 
The basic point of the book is that women are quite capable of making decisions that will benefit their lifestyle and health. All they need is complete and correct information and they can take it form there.
The book deals with menstrual management--a tool that allows you to decide whether to have a period, when, and how often--and with how you can determine if controlling the period can benefit your particular needs. So, what better way to promote the book than with a practical gift giveaway. For example, what product would a menstruating woman find useful?  Three items spring to mind: sanitary products, OTC pain meds, and chocolate. (Well, the last one didn't so much spring to mind as it came into focus by a process of elimination. But I'm getting ahead of myself.) The way I envisioned this was to connect with the manufacturer of one of these products and arrange for free samples. Everybody wins: women get something they can use, the manufacturer gets its product into the hands of users, and women become aware that there's a practical book on menstrual management. And, of course, peace and harmony immediately break out all over the world. Not quite.
Upon further reflection, I realized that there might be a minuscule flaw in my plan. According to an industry report
The $1.9 billion sanitary protection market has experienced steady growth from 1996 to 1999, but declined in 2000 and 2001, though the number of viable female consumers has increased over that period. The market, which includes only sanitary pads/napkins and tampons, has very little room for growth, and growth in one segment of the market is usually at the expense of the other.

Available studies indicate that women, once they learn that they're able to control how often to have a period, will choose to have fewer periods. For example, a 1977 British study found that 82% of women wanted to have their period every three months, while in a 2002 U.S. poll, among women aged eighteen to forty-nine years, 44% would prefer to never have a period, and 21% preferred a period less frequently than once a month. (Women who wanted to have a monthly period: 29%.) Also, a recent survey of women in China, South Africa, Nigeria, and Scotland found that most women would opt to bleed only once every three months, or not at all. The exception--a majority of Nigerian women who'd prefer to bleed monthly. (Surprisingly, these Nigerian women where also the ones most likely to consider using a birth control method which completely stopped monthly bleeding.) 

Clearly, women having fewer periods and spending less on sanitary products isn't likely to be viewed as a favorable development by the manufacturers of these products. Although, interestingly, how much a particular woman will actually save depends on which menstrual management regimen she use, her health insurance plan, and the area she live in, among other things. For example, if you have a [fake] period only once every 7 weeks your yearly spending on feminine hygiene products is almost half that of a woman who has a monthly [fake] period: $17.54 vs. 41.45 per year. On the other hand (assuming an average use of 18 tampons per month), if you use the Pill for a trimonthly regimen (you have a [fake] period only once every three months), this regimen is cost effective only if the cost of a pill pack to you is $9.45.

Moving on to pharma and OTC period relief meds (and even some prescription ones like Prozac and Zoloft), these products have sales of several hundred million dollars per year. Since one of the benefits of menstrual management is a reduction in period-related problems, like discomfort, cramps, and headaches, I don't think the manufacturers will be overly enthusiastic about a book that allows women to cut down on the use of these products.

Which brings us to the only useful option left, chocolate--the one product whose continued sales don't depend on keeping women uninformed. Fortunately, period or no period, everybody can enjoy a piece of fine Belgian chocolate. So, there you have it. I have found the ideal book gift companion. And that's not all. In keeping with Virginia Postrel's advice about substance and style, my new find will delect both gustatorily, as well as visually. (As soon as I have this all worked out, I'll post pictures so you may judge for yourself.)

And speaking of pictures...the first installment of birth control pictures: Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

Oh, but of course, I got stuck at the "Upload path" step! Allow me to go figure this out and I'll be back with pics.

Update: Even with this new console, you can only post pictures if they're already hosted online.



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