When it comes to cosmetic surgeons’ marketing practices in the information age, it pays to be a smart consumer. As you find various places where information on cosmetic surgeons is available, you may need to think about business models and read fine print to understand exactly what you’re getting. In some cases, the nature of what you read—specifically, whether it’s objective or paid for in some way—may be obvious. In other cases, maybe not so much.
Cosmetic surgeon directories are one case for which the business model should be pretty self-evident. For example, visit www.loveyourlook.com , a website produced by Mentor Worldwide LLC which is one of the two leading U.S. manufacturers of breast implants. There you’ll find a directory of plastic surgeons, and you can probably guess that the doctors listed are those who choose to use Mentor’s products.
If you look at the fine print, however, there are a couple of surprises. First, plastic surgeons pay an extra fee to be included in the directory. Moreover, not only do the plastic surgeons listed need to be Mentor customers, they need to purchase “a certain level of Mentor implants on an annual or semi-annual basis” (Mentor 1).
What could this mean to a consumer? If you should be doing research on implants and you don’t see a prospective surgeon in Mentor’s directory, it could mean several things, none of which should necessarily disqualify them from your consideration.
First, your favorite cosmetic surgeon may use more Mentor implants than anyone in your area and just not have paid the extra fee for a listing. Or, they could favor the other manufacturer’s implants. Or, perhaps you live in a remote area and your plastic surgeon’s breast augmentation numbers would never reach the level required by Mentor to earn a listing.
There are independent online directories as well. Implant Info is one at www.implantinfo.com. These websites are run by enterprising individuals and companies that offer content that appeals to breast augmentation patients, then charge plastic surgeons to be listed.
While the information on procedures may be helpful—the discussion groups on these sites are particularly popular with patients—the directories are often of limited value. For instance, Implant Info lists just two plastic surgeons in Los Angeles (Advance Media 1). It should be obvious to consumers that there’s not much to learn about plastic surgeons here at this website.
A newer marketing option for cosmetic surgeons presents a case that has the potential to confuse consumers much more than directories do. Print publications are starting to emerge that embrace cosmetic surgery and feature surgeons in glossy spreads. Just like in the directory model, it appears that many if not all the surgeons featured pay to be included in such publications. (Again, read the fine print if you run across one of these magazines.)
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this practice—it’s certainly not illegal. It’s just that when the cosmetic surgeon profiles are not clearly labeled as advertorial content, and when a magazine pushes the notion that it covers the best options for achieving new levels of beauty, consumers might get the wrong idea. It would be understandable if someone were to infer that a magazine like this features the best surgeons, or at least those who are most popular.
So what information can these “pay to play” sources really offer? Obviously they don’t say much about cosmetic surgeons who aren’t included. You simply can’t conclude that a surgeon who is not listed is inferior to those who are.
There is one thing you can learn, however, from understanding how these marketing vehicles operate—cosmetic surgeons who use them have marketing budgets and believe in spending them.
Writer: Cathy Enns
Category: Cosmetic Surgery