Episode 18 – Shady Marketing Tactics in the Essential Oil Industry

Show Transcript

After understanding the differences in distillation processes, this question always comes up: why would these companies sell weaker essential oils, sometimes at higher prices, than companies selling stronger ones when they know the stronger ones are more volatile and contains higher levels of the healthful constituents? They are all likely well aware, however, processing a fractionally distilled essential oil is more profitable. From a marketing perspective, when I teach on the subject, I will pass around three to four of the same type of essential oil, such as Peppermint, all from different companies. They all have their labels hidden. Only one, from my experience with the oils, is distilled correctly. I then ask the group three questions:

1. Which essential oil smell do you like better? They always choose the sweeter smelling ones that were distilled much longer or perhaps incorrectly and have sweeter and milder aromas. Based just on smelling alone, everyone will always choose a nicer smelling oil. That is just a fact and is why you can only find these weaker oils in markets. The stronger distills simply won’t sell because, based on smelling them, they are really strong and pungent, and usually more earthy smelling.

2. What do you think of when you see a title with the registered trademark symbol after it?  The symbols look like this:   ® ™ 

People answer that it looks official somehow. Most do not know exactly what those symbols mean but they do know that it is some sort of seal that states the company did something official to get that mark. The interesting thing about those symbols is that they just mean no one else can use that specific copy, name, or logo. 

3. If you could see the bottle, they all say they are therapeutic grade essential oils. What does that mean to you? 

Everyone assumes that means they are all standardized somehow and that the entire bottle contains 100% of that essential oil. One of the companies I use in this test does have chemical synthetics. They are all amazed and shocked to find out it is OK for a company to put that label on there even if it is just one of the ingredients but not necessarily the only ingredient.

It has nothing to do with any outside agency officially stating that they are legitimate. I could start a company that states, “Jen: the Mind Reader™” with a tag-line stating, “Reading the Minds of Celebrities®” and some people may be inclined to think it is true, simply because of the little “TM” and the “R” with a circle around it. It may be true too, because once when I was eight years old I guessed correctly several answers prior to the celebrity’s answer on a televised game show. Is that ethical? You may decide for yourself; sadly, that is often how companies and their marketing team may justify how they label or promote their products.

There are several other issues at hand when it comes to marketing. Any company that labels their oils as pure therapeutic grade essential oils should be able to state that because all distillations, if done properly, are technically pure. They do not have to prove that they cultivated or harvested the plant material correctly. Even if there are traces of chemicals in them they can still be labeled as pure. The FDA will allow marginal synthetic chemicals in items that are labeled pure. The same is true with labeling something as organic when there are trace chemicals. Trans fat labeling is another slippery slope in the labeling world. A box of cookies can have a huge label on the front that states TRANS FAT FREE, however, when you look at the ingredients on the back of the box you will see listed hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, which are trans fats. How can they do this? Government regulations. It is just how it is.

Companies usually have a goal to produce the best quality. There are three things important aspects in any business and no company can have all three: great quality, great price, and great service. If you want the best quality and great service it will not be at a low price. If you want great quality at a great price, it may take much longer to get or the customer service may be lacking. If you want a great price often the quality and the service are bad. You can’t have all three at once in most cases. You have heard it time and time again: you get what you pay for. To think you are getting top quality from a $5 bottle of Frankincense just because it says therapeutic grade on the bottle would be a poor lack of judgment on your part. Look for great quality and great service, at a fair price.

Here is the rub: companies have figured this trick out. It is another marketing strategy. Bump up your prices, slap a quality label on there, and sell a less expensive product. They laugh all the way to the bank simply because the unknowing consumer could not comprehend why anyone would willingly lie to them. We are not wired to think we are gullible or able to be duped. Tell that to the milk industry or the wheat industry. Drink at least 8 ounces of milk a day to keep strong bones, yet the USA has the highest rate of osteoporosis on the planet and we consume the most animal milk on the planet. That is another topic for another podcast, but I am trying to get you to wise up and think for yourself. So, once again, I encourage you to get to know your essential oil company on a deeper level. Find out what is in your essential oils before you invest heavily in using them.