Swimming Pool Secret #76: Buzzwords in Pool Marketing!

(this article first appeared in its original form in the Oct. 23, 1998 PoolLetter)

Buzzwords #1: "NATURAL" or "ECO-FRIENDLY"

Today, everyone and their third cousin wants to claim that their swimming pool product is 'natural' and 'eco-friendly'. When such claims are made in the pool business, watch your wallet!

Virtually all of the so-called 'natural' products are EITHER no more natural than chlorine OR no more effective than a placebo. It's as simple as that.

Neither the ozonators, the ionizers, the skimmer pills, nor the catalysts utilize sanitation processes that occur ordinarily, or even occasionally, in your neighborhood pond, lake, or ocean. So, it's hard to figure out in just what sense these products can legitimately be called "natural".

I realize that many of you are concerned about how we treat our natural environment. It's a reasonable and prudent concern. It's probably a topic I need to consider at length in the future.

But, unless you want to be vulnerable to deceptive marketing hype, there is a simple, basic fact you need to recognize: sanitation is not a natural process.

Small natural unsanitized closed bodies of water already have a name, and it's not "swimming pool": it's "pond".

Now there is nothing wrong with ponds: I've fished in them, played around them, and even helped build some. Rarely, I've even swum in one, though not on purpose. I don't care for swimming in that much mud and gook, but if it's what you like, that's fine with me.

But, ponds aren't pools, and most poolowners, no matter how great their concern with the environment, don't want their pool to be a pond.

The bottom line? Product claims that a particular sanitation system is BOTH natural AND effective at pool sanitation usually reflect an attempt to deceive you. So far as I know, these products either aren't natural, or they aren't effective.

Currently, marketing for some of the saltwater chlorination systems seems to be vying for the claim to be the worst offender in this area. These products all work by electrolytically converting table salt to chlorine gas and sodium metal. There is nothing wrong with many of these products: the better ones provide an effective and reliable method of continuously feeding chlorine into your pool.

[The paragraph above was true in 1998; I'm not sure if it's still true in 2011, though at least one of those companies is still around and stills seems to be making bogus claims. What's still true is that if a company sells you a "salt-water system" and implies that it's "natural" or a "non-chlorine" system . . . they are trying to deceive you.]

What's wrong is that some of them are promoted as "natural" and "chlorine-free". Sometimes they word their claims so that they are literally true, if massively misleading; sometimes they use Clintonesque deceptions; sometimes their claims are simply outright lies, which I suppose could also be considered Clintonesque. But the simple 'un-spun' fact is that these products generate chlorine by the same process which is used industrially to manufacture chlorine gas. So, if you want an effective, if somewhat expensive, way to chlorinate your pool, even when you're not around, you might want to look at salt chlorination. But, if you want a more natural method of sanitizing your pool, well, salt chlorination is not the way!

Buzzwords #2: "NEW, or REVOLUTIONARY"

Other common marketing buzzwords found in swimming pool marketing literature include "new", "revolutionary", or "miraculous". Surprisingly, these are often true . . . but only if you apply them to the marketing strategy, instead of the product!

At the nuts and bolts level, there are a few truly new, or significantly improved, products in the pool industry. Fiber optic pool edge lighting, plastic ("resin") vinyl pool wall panels, spa control electronics and a handful of other products are genuinely new (as in, less than 10 years old) or significantly improved. [This was true in 1998 and it's still true today, with the addition of "pool control systems" that are similar to the spa control systems of 1998. ]

But virtually all of the swimming pool chemicals, pumps, filters, equipment, liners, pool finishes, paints, tools, gadgets and so forth . . . aren't really new at all. Granted, some have been improved, but it's the kind of incremental improvement you see in cars each year: neither "revolutionary" nor "miraculous".

I have a Wallace and Tiernan pool operations manual that describes pool sanitation using chlorine, bromine, iodine, ozone, silver, ionization, and UV light - and this manual was printed OVER 40 YEARS AGO! [ Now, over 50 years ago. ]

So, when someone tells you about their "new" "revolutionary" pool "miracle" product, remember: the "miracle" may be in how effectively it has been in separating pool owners from their money!


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