It was a good spring for people who hate SUVs. The spectacle of SUV owners paying vast amounts of money to fill their vast vehicles' gas tanks was satisfying in itself, of course. Beyond that, the rise in gas prices raised the prospect that chastened consumers might forsake SUVs in favor of smaller, fuel-efficient cars. Alas, those hopes are likely to be dashed. In a poll by The NPD Group, just 18 percent of SUV owners said they'd buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle next time. Given the lamentations gas prices have provoked, why isn't the number higher? Perhaps because the dire effects of high gas prices have been concentrated among lower-income consumers, who tend not to buy pricey SUVs in the first place. One gets a sign of this in polling fielded by International Communications Research for the Cambridge Consumer Credit Index. Among respondents with yearly household income of $25,000, 69 percent said high gas prices have forced them to reduce other sorts of spending. Among those with income of $75,000-plus, 34 percent said the same. We'll await second-quarter retail figures to see if consumers really have made such reductions in their expenditures. (A Harris Poll found 35 percent of economizers claiming to have spent less on "just about everything.") It won't be a great surprise if people turn out to have been less austere than they're now claiming.
The trouble with lots of business-to-business ads is that they're too rational. They're written as though they'll be read by corporations, not by flesh-and-blood individuals who have their own ambitions and anxieties. Those readers would respond to a more emotional approach than many b-to-b ads dare to take. It's not as if executives are strictly rational in the way they approach their work. That's underscored by a new Doremus survey on the business-spending patterns of senior executives. Fifty percent of respondents "regularly invest in projects they believe in, even when they can't make a numeric or ROI case for them." Nor are the executives moved solely by short-term costs when they deal with vendors: Just 18 percent said they'd always choose the lowest-price supplier.
You know the obesity epidemic is out of hand when it extends to thin people. And yet, that's the phenomenon we learn of in an article in Health magazine. The writer tells us she was underweight by standard measures. But she realized, at age 30, that she'd joined the ranks of the "skinny-fat"—i.e., people whose body composition includes too much fat, notwithstanding their low weight. "It's a deceptive—and dangerous—ailment." Just what we need! Testing showed that her body composition was 29 percent fat, "placing me on the brink of obesity." She writes that "at least 5 percent of the population is obese even though these folks are not obviously overweight." Makes you wonder which of your thin acquaintances is covertly fat, eh?
Not content with mainstream modern medicine, 36 percent of adults resort to "some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)," says a report from the National Institutes of Health. Most popular are "natural products," such as herbs, other botanicals and enzymes (used by 19 percent of adults), deep-breathing exercises (12 percent), meditation (8 percent), chiropractic treatment (8 percent), yoga (5 percent) and massage (5 percent). It's not that CAM users reject conventional medicine. The number who feel CAM "would help them when combined with conventional medical treatment" is nearly double the number who think "conventional medical treatments would not help them with their health problems" (55 percent vs. 28 percent). Twenty-six percent said they've sought CAM treatment at the suggestion of a conventional medical practitioner.
We know that single men are in no rush to wed their girlfriends. But what exactly makes them so averse to marriage? In a joint poll by Marie Claire and Maxim, 26 percent said their biggest fear about marriage is that "she'll turn into her mother," with another 11 percent worrying that "she'll turn into my mother." In a nod to marital fidelity, 24 percent said their biggest fear is that "I'll never be able to have sex with another woman." The prospect of parenthood is also daunting: 19 percent chose the answer, "Bye-bye, social life; hello, Lamaze class"; 14 percent subscribed to the statement, "I'll have to watch the woman I love morph into a homely soccer mom." A mere 4 percent said they recoil from marriage out of a quasi-chivalrous fear that they'll "screw it up."
Counterintuitive beer statistic of the week: You'd think people who drink real, full-strength beer would consume more than those who drink light beer. But they don't. A Mintel report says light-beer drinkers had an average of 5.7 beers in the month prior to being queried, while regular-domestic-beer drinkers tossed back 5.0 beers.
The demonization of drug companies continues apace, judging from the results of a Harris Poll. The survey found majorities of respondents satisfied with the way supermarkets, airlines, software makers and banks serve their consumers. But drug companies? Sure, their wares help Americans live longer than ever, despite the rise in obesity and sloth. But the companies expect to profit from this! As you can gather from the chart, the public has lost patience with that indiscretion. Americans may favor free enterprise in the abstract, but they look askance at profit-making when it relates to healthcare. It's indicative of this tendency that a Google search for "obscene profits + pharmaceutical companies" found 707 entries, with "obscene profits + drug companies" chipping in 346 more. To give some perspective, a search for "obscene profits + advertising agencies" came up with 26 results.