“Your mama told ya! To always apply SPF sunscreen when at the beach or during summer staycations”. SPF sunscreen application is an important preventive behavior, which may help avoiding the short-term risk of sunburns and the long-term risk of faster skin ageing, appearance of dark spots and skin cancer (Burr & Penzer, 2005). However, it is widely taken lightly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO; 2017), skin cancer was and still is the cause of health concerns in several countries worldwide. The frequency of skin cancer increased over the past decades. Two are the factors, which predominantly influence the growth of newly diagnosed cases. They are the skin type and the decline of the ozone levels (WHO, 2017).
At a first glance, it may seem that the prevention of skin cancer is out of our control. But, it is not. Recreational behaviors, such as tanning, are seen as the main cause that predisposes to the development of skin cancer (Burr & Penzer, 2005). People may avoid the risk if only they engage in the preventive behavior, namely, a SPF sunscreen application. To have an even comprehensive skin protection, people should engage in a daily SPF application. In fact, contrary to the common belief, even in winter months and on cloudy days, the sun rays still shine. People will be exposed to damaging UVA and UVb radiations (Bailey, 2012). To avoid damaging sun side-effects, it is extremely important to promote a daily SPF sunscreen application. Thus, “your mama should have told ya! To Always apply SPF sunscreen!”
Public health previously attempted to convince people to change their unhealthy behaviors. Already in 1981, the health campaign “Slip! Slop! Slap!” was launched with the aim to encourage Australians to protect their skin. However, almost four decades later, still two out of three Australians before their seventy are diagnosed with skin cancer (Cancer Council Australia, 2017). In the wake of the Australian “Slip! Slop! Slap!”, many other skin-protection programs tried to enhance SPF sunscreen application but with little success (Oyebanjo & Bushell, 2014). This suggests that, overall, health campaigns failed to hit their target (Oyebanjo & Bushell, 2014; Snyder, Hamilton, Mitchell, Kiwanuka-Tondo, Fleming-Milici & Proctor, 2004). Did previous health campaigns leave out important factors which prompt behavior-change? The first aim of my paper is to dig more in depth into this failure by discussing three main factors, which may inhibit daily SPF sunscreen application.
First, people differ in the way they think about future consequences (CFC; Strathman, Gleicher, Boninger & Edwards, 1994). Preventive behaviors typically involve a temporal frame addressing to the short- or long-term consequences of engaging in a certain behavior (Orbell & Kyriakaki, 2008). When both short- and long-term messages are under scrutiny, the cognitive trait of CFC may play the greatest role in people’s choices. People lower in CFC usually weight more immediate benefits. Whereas, people higher in CFC focus more on long-term benefits of the message (Strathman et al., 1994).
Second, when health marketers promote the preventive behavior, namely, the daily SPF application, they indirectly promote the purchase of the product, the SPF sunscreen (Chang, 2007). As a consequence, people may recognize the promotion of the product as a persuasive attempt. According to the persuasion knowledge model (PKM; Friestad & Wright, 1994), people develop personal knowledge about marketing and persuasive tactics. To refine their attitude towards suspicious messages, people may activate their persuasion knowledge and counter-argue more the claims the product conveys.
Finally, the type of the claim (health claim vs marketing claim) may be an additional factor which inhibits SPF sunscreen application. Empirical studies on food packaging showed that marketing claims, compared to nutrient or health-related claims, enhance more counter-arguing and scepticism towards the food product (Tan & Tan, 2007). In the same way, the marketing claims on SPF sunscreens may lead to higher levels of counter-arguing and the discount of the health behavior, being recognized as a persuasive message (Obermiller, Spangenberg & MacLachlan, 2005). In light of what previously stated, I follow put forward the leading research questions of this study:
RQ1: What is the role of the conditional effects between temporal framing messages (short- vs long-term consequences) and considerations for future consequences (CFC) on people’s behavioral beliefs and attitudes towards daily SPF sunscreen application?
RQ2: Is the relationship between temporal framing and attitude mediated by counter-arguing?
RQ3: Further, is the relationship temporal framing and attitude moderated by the type of the claim (health claim vs marketing claim) which the SPF sunscreen conveys?