The Genealogy of a Consumer Good: Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an essential oil which is taken from Melaleuca Alternifolia leaves, the tree that is usually grown in Southwest Queensland in Australia. It can also be found in New South Wales. The oil has a fresh odor of almost colorless substance. The product is considered to be a natural antiseptic that is widely used in cosmetics and medicine. It can also be effective for treating various dermatologic problems, such as acne, herpes, foot fungus, dandruff and other skin infections. In particular, the indigenous population used tea tree leaves due to their healing effect. It was further approved in medicine and biology, leading to the rise of the tea tree industry. With regard to the above-presented facts, the emergence of the tea tree oil industry has been associated with the environmental factors and consumer demand.

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Major Problems Led to the Tea Tree Oil Production

As it has been briefly mentioned, tea tree oil was used for healing wounds and skin problems. Its active use refers to the period of the World War II, the time when the product was used for healing wounds (Australian Tea Tree Oil, 2009). As a result, it could be stressed that the major problems leading to the active use of tea tree oil were associated with health problems and social unrest. Due to its effective medical properties, the tea tree essential oil was first of all used as a medicine that could heal wounds, having an antibacterial effect. Health problems, therefore, were decisive in spreading and encouraging the production of the oil.

Factors That Have Led to the Emergence of These Problems

The history of the product counts more than seventy years. In the 1920s and 1930s the indigenous Bundjalung people residing in Eastern Australia were assume to have applied tea trees in traditional medicine (Australian Tea Tree Oil, 2009). They crushed leaves of the tree and treated wounds, sore throats and insect bites. The area in which the plant is grown is called Bungawalbyn, which is also translated as the ‘healing ground’. When Captain James Cook arrived to this area, he called the plant a tea tree because the local population made tee from the leaves for healing purposes. Further, the plant became the object of the medical and biological reports. Specifically, Arthur Penfold and Morrison introduced first reports on the qualities and antiseptic properties of a tee tree (Australian Tea Tree Oil, 2009). While evaluating the antimicrobial qualities of the product, the scholars rated them 11-13 times more active as compared to phenol; it turned out to be safer, as well. When such reports were approved, the tea tree industry has been launched and is still successful nowadays.

Till the 1940s tea tree oil was used as an antiseptic to solve problems with skin infections. However, the discovery of penicillin in 1940s decreased the demand for tea tree oil production (American Cancer Society, 2008). Several decades later, the scientists discovered that the Australian oil was still the only antiseptic that would kill certain bacteria, which were resistant to penicillin and other antibiotics. Therefore, the production of the oil was renewed, alongside with new spheres in which such product applied. In general, most health and environmental problems have become the decisive in the production of tea tree oil.

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Product Consumption, Fetishism of Commodities and False Consciousness

Tea tree oil production is an environmentally beneficial industry because it excludes the use of chemicals. Instead, only natural substances are introduced into production. From a consumerist perspective, the product is environmentally friendly, ensuring a significant competitive advantage over the production of other antiseptic products. Since its launch to the market, the product underwent several stages of product implementation and integration.

Due to the emergence of the so-called ‘cure-all’ products, consumers were obsessed with buying such commodities because they believed in the advertising of their values. However, subjective descriptions of commodities create false assumptions about the product. In case of tea tree oil, some of the retailers still use false descriptions to make people believe that their products are more effective (Robbins, 2013). The market trends in product launch are oriented at capturing the new market segment and attract new customers by introducing new qualities. However, such qualities should be presented not in the form of falsely assumed values, but in the form of serious research conducted to prove that tea tree oil is effective as antiseptic (Australian Tea Tree Oil, 2009).

In contrast, when a false assumption is created about the product values, it makes no connection with the physical description of the product nature. By means of establishing the relationship between the buyers and customers through exchanging goods and money, the commodity fetishism is created. Similar to it, the Body Shop is also working on the creation of the consumer-oriented philosophy, according to which the cosmetic they offer is highly valued because it is made of natural ingredients. Although the company focuses on the top quality of the product, the relation between retailer and the consumer is still important and the latter perceive the products as commodities, being an inherent part of social interaction.

Due to the development and spread of the commodity fetishism paradigm, the false consciousness is created among the consumers regarding a specific commodity. From sociological perspective, a false consciousness is a subjective attitude that is imposed on an individual and which is often presented as a personal opinion of an individual, although it is not reflected accurately and objectively. Hence, sometimes, a consumer can express a specific thought regarding a product due to the generally accepted opinion among the consumers who reject the objective position. Sometimes, people buy products as a result of strong ideology developed by the company. In particular, the ideological conceptions are often misinterpreted by consumers. In fact, such ideological statements create false consciousness, which leads to the creation of dominant ideology. It is currently a growing trend for all the companies to introduce their environmental strategies to influence customer decisions whether to buy product or not (Robbins, 2013). The idea of false consciousness, therefore, makes people committed to a specific product, although there is always a possibility that such idea is only a well-arranged combination of words.

In order to understand the consumer trend, the attention should be placed on the market established for tea tree oil. The manufactures should offer improved products which could compete with similar goods in the field. At this point, it is essential to adhere to a positive approach regarding marketing of tea tree oil. Its major qualities and virtues should be emphasized and meet the highest standards, which is possible through reducing the percentage of cineole, a substance which enhances the oil properties. To explain the issue, the scholars argue, “…some natural tea tree oils of higher cineole content, but still within the ISO Standards, are more effective against certain pathogens” (Southwell & Lowe, 2003, p. 208). It should be assumed, however, that the major market segment for tea tree oil product is introduced in the cosmetic field, assigning the description of general antiseptic, pure oil, which could be used for treating acne and skin infections. Although the market segment develops, expansion is still restricted due to the difficulties in obtaining approval regarding the effectiveness of the product. In case of success, new markets could be open, alongside with the registration of FDA monographs, emergence of goods registers and other procedures, which imply significant costs (Robbins, 2013). Despite such difficulties, the oil could be sold in the pharmaceutical field. As a result, it is essential for the product to gain a competitive advantage over other related products, which have been introduced in the market. While the oils are highly appraised in the cosmetic field, the main requirement in the medical sphere is directly associated with the effectiveness.

The above-presented marketing strategies introduce certain methods and trends in shaping ‘consumer consciousnesses’, which are used by the Body Shop, a beauty retails, which operates over 35 years. Many consumers are still committed to the products due to the retailer’s philosophy. Its environmental strategies allow the consumers to notice that human rights and fair trade are among the priorities and, therefore, many consumers are captured by such philosophy (Australian Tea Tree Oil, 2009). The company also assures that they do not test their production on animals, and they are concerned with the environmental problems. Moreover, the company managers may state that their retailer is unique because it is committed to the distribution of one brand only. The Body Shop is aware of the economic difficulties and, due to the presence of loyal customers, the company can hold its positions in the market. Therefore, orientation on consumers is the key and transparent ideology of the retailer (Verburg, 2012). With the emphasis placed on consumer consciousness, the retailer takes an advantage and provides a new strategy that persuades their regular consumers pay more for products that contain natural ingredients and are not harmful to the environment. Although the price policy is not competitive, its product development issues are much more effective in attracting new clients.

Brand loyalty is the key to facing a rigorous competition in the field of cosmetics and medicine. In particular, it is highly important for the retailer to defend its genuine positions and roots to increase confidence on the part of the consumers. The Body Shop, therefore, is attached to several important virtues, such as anti-animal testing, fair trade, human rights protection, environmental protection and self-esteem development (Verburg, 2012). Product innovation should correlate with a new beauty movement, which is ethical and natural. In this regards, the clients of the Body Shop buy their products, such as tea tree oil, because they strongly believe in the quality and value accepted and dictated by the company. Consumers are encouraged to travel and discover something new, while learning about the nature and origins of the products. Maps could show where ingredients are grown and how they are processed. All such approaches are taken in accordance with the corporate social responsibility guidelines, which are accepted at an international level. The brand development should also become the part of a wider policy. The contributions made to the product innovation are associated with the design and technologies that make the process of tea tree oil manufacturing safer and environmentally friendly.

Proposed Solutions and Alternative Recommendations for Solving Consumer Problems

Recently, tea tree oil sales rates have substantially increased due to its popularity. In case synthesis products are very effective in the field, the trend may negatively influence tea tree oil, unless it is demonstrates that the oil is as effective as its natural analogue. In order to persuade that the product is highly competitive at the market, serious scientific research is required to demonstrate the genuine value of the oil. In fact, the product has multiple natural advantages, which could be used in the industry (Southwell & Lowe, 2003). It is also applicable in many spheres, such as cosmetology, healthcare and pharmaceuticals. At the early stages of its revival, it was regarded as a healing product which could treat almost all diseases. Currently, it is used in more specialized spheres. The problem is that the market is restricted for such products and, to cover the range of its characteristics and properties, the oil must be assigned with accurate descriptions and exact purposes. The contemporary market is too sophisticated to assume that the ‘cure all’ product could be in high demand among consumers (Southwell & Lowe, 2003). Therefore, the product should be introduced specifically with regard to certain qualities. Its production specifics can vary as well, because the product affects the range of pathogens the tea tree oil can treat.

It should be stressed that the industry has tried to reduce the potential of the product to limit its production to one type, although at least three types of tea tree oil are introduced. The advantage of operating with genetically diverse natural products creates the opportunities for intra-breeding. In case the market trend for tea tree oil would expand, the variety of products is essential and it can be achieved through the development of products with a specific purpose. According to Southwell and Lowe (2003), “…if tea tree oil is to fulfill its potential and so increase its market, selection and breeding will occur” (p. 207). Therefore, as the researchers argue, the oil chemical type would be developed and integrated to the market in case it turns out the most effective cure against specific human pathogens. Chemical modification, therefore, is among feasible methods, but it is not environmentally friendly. In order to promote the opportunity for inter-specific breeding, it is necessary to limit the industry potential.

The information about types of oil, chemical composition, levels of quality and pricing strategies could be much more persuasive for consumers than a mere statement that the products are based on natural ingredients only. The attention to current sphere could be overestimated due to the globally accepted trends in following environmental strategies. In order to avoid the false consciousness and attract more clients, it is highly essential for the company to invest into the research and development department and conduct new scientific tests and researchers that would prove the effectiveness of tea tree oil. The clients should be assured that the product is effective and its qualities are proved by scientific experimentation.

Placing customer feedbacks on the websites is a generally accepted and well-known strategy introduced by the company to persuade the clients that the product is effective and it can cope with the skin infections. However, such function can be improved in case the feedbacks could be left online and the clients buying products could exchange their opinions, problems and concerns. Additionally, there should also be the access to the support team, which could immediately propose help in case a client wants to make an inquiry. For instance, there should be a separate tab for communicating with the research and development team. The illustration of transparency and honesty can also be revealed by the certifications displayed on sites. In such way, the company can attract more consumers and alleviate the threat of false advertising. It is highly important for producers to explain the consumers that the poor results received from the product use could be the consequence of incorrect use and failure to follow the instructions, which relate to preservations, terms of use and many other conditions affecting the effectiveness of tea tree oil.

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In order to alleviate the competition, which is often predetermined by the widely used competitive strategies, it is essential to explore new methods of distributing and expanding the product. Due to the fact that the Australian tea tree oil could be sold more effectively in Australia, other areas could also enjoy buying the product. In order to enter the new market, the scientists should explore new location and estimate new production capacities to make the product more cost-effective. In other words, the emphasis should be placed on internal marketing conditions and organizational processes, which can minimize the costs spent on manufacturing tea tree oil. Apart from this issue, the idea of ecologically friendly packaging can also attract more clients. Although such new ideology does not contribute to the effectiveness of the product itself, it can encourage buying the product because it has less detrimental impact on the environment. Such phenomenon can be referred to as false consciousness and commodity fetishism because it enhances the relationship between the consumer and the manufacturer. More importantly, the current program proposed by the Body Shop, particularly its marketing strategies, ensures that their customer-oriented values decrease the focus on the effectiveness of their products. Currently, there are many other retailers that can offer natural cosmetics as well, because such product does not require substantial process before it is introduced to the market. However, the philosophy surrounding the product seems to be more valuable than the product itself, thus distorting the clients’ perceptions of the product and making them buy the product due to the brand loyalty.

In conclusion, the tea tree oil proposed by the Body Shop originates from the Southwest Australia and was originally known as the ‘healing’ tree, which was helpful in treating wounds and skin infections. Such qualities were noticed by the researchers and scientists who explored the plant. In their reports, tea tree oil was found to be effective for treating different human pathogens due to its anti-bacterial quality. During the Second World War, the product was also used as antiseptic and its popularity grew due to the health conditions of the period. Further, the product has become the object of commerce and many pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies have started promoting the tea tree oil due to its multiple functions.

The product is currently on the market and enjoys high customer demand. However, due to high competition, the manufacturers should resort to effective advertising strategies to sustain a competitive advantage. In the majority of cases, the content of advertizing and promotion is not confined to the analysis of the product useful qualities and characteristics; on the contrary, the producers pay attention to the environmental sustainability of the product. Environmentally friendly customers will definitely buy products that are delivered by companies that are sensitive to ecological problems. Nonetheless, The Body Shop emphasizes both strategies. In particular, it appeals to consumers’ consciousness and explains the utmost qualities of the product by delivering the results of the research, proving that tea tree oil is helpful in struggling with skin problems and infections. In the future, the company should continue investing into the research and development of the initiative to attract more clients and make them realize the genuine value of using tea tree oil. They should also provide more information about different types of tea tree oil due to the diverse techniques and technologies used in the production process.

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