The Lab Coat Factor

Lately I’ve noticed that more and more products — from gasoline to rewards cards to patent medicines — are being advertised by people in lab coats.

IMG_1153Somebody must have done a marketing study about this and determined that Americans just trust people in lab coats.  How else to explain why companies who are trying to decide how to clothe the human mannequins that appear on billboards and point-of-purchase ads would pick lab coats as opposed to, say, a minister’s collar, a nurse’s uniform, or the loud sportscoat and gold-buckled loafers of a used car salesman?  If my assumption is correct, why would people be more trusting of a shill just because he’s clad in a lab coat?  Is it because a lab coat suggests intelligence and precision?  Or, is it because lab coats have quasi-medical connotations, and people trust their doctors?  I’ve known scientists and lab workers and they were decent human beings — but not measurably more honest or credible than people in other lines of work.

Often, the lab coat seems to have nothing to do with the product or service being sold.  Consider the Shell rewards card ad that I saw when I fueled up my car today, a picture of which accompanies this post.  It features a nerdy-looking guy in a lab coat gesturing toward the card.  I guess he’s supposed to be a fun-loving Shell fuel technician . . . but why would anyone rely on a lab worker to provide them with guidance about smart financial decisions?  Lab workers may be adept with Bunsen burners, but that doesn’t mean they know bupkis about whether a payment card is a good deal or a rip-off.

2 thoughts on “The Lab Coat Factor

  1. Your instinct is correct, as far as I am concerned. Back in the late-70s I was right out of the navy JAG. My Navy trial batting average had tracked the rank of the chief witness for one side or the other. Then, I joined a law firm and began trying personal injury cases on behalf of railroads. The guy who taught me how to do that (a former FBI agent) insisted on one thing: always have uniformed personnel testify in uniform, nurses especially. It was good advice.


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