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The Spray Tan Fallacy – Why Copying The Pros Can Sometimes Be A Bad Idea

Op-Ed is a column where we share our thoughts and ideas about ecommerce, philosophy, building a sweeter marketplace and other fun stuff.


Imagine looking at the above picture, and then thinking: “Oh wow, that’s what I want to be! I need to get me a spray tan.”

You wouldn’t think that, because it’s painfully obvious to you that the muscles are what matter, not the spray tan.

In fact, this guy would look better without a spray tan than most of us would with the best spray tan in the world. Because he put in the effort to build the muscles. This is something so obvious to us, that we take it for granted as common knowledge.

We don’t, however, carry this insight easily into our personal and professional lives.

The evolution of Apple’s logo over the years.

Now imagine looking at a beautiful brand, and then thinking, “Oh wow, that’s what I want to be! I need to get me some designers, and a marketing team.”

“I need to get a spray tan.”

Here’s what you’d be doing:

Bodybuilder used Spray Tan! … It’s not very effective.


Now, successful businesses use every trick in the book.
They don’t stop at spray tan- they also use oil, lighting, professional photographers, take posing classes.

But underneath all of that, beyond all that, they have great muscles. That’s the foundation on which everything else is built.

Spray Tan: The iPhone is sleek and sexy as hell.
Muscle: It puts the internet in your pocket.

If you want to be like Apple, or whatever brand you admire, focus on your value proposition. Fulfill a need, and fulfill it masterfully. Work towards having the biggest, strongest damn muscles around.

The next time somebody suggests some equivalent of a spray tan, or you think about it yourself, remember: Muscles before spray tan.

This can be especially hard to do because we live in a world that spends a disproportionate amount of time talking about spray tan. We get bombarded with snake oil salesmen everyday, too, telling us that we’ll look or perform a lot better if we just use the right tools for marketing, advertising, the right gimmick..

Ignore them. There’s so many of them simply because it’s easier to spray something on your skin than it is to build muscle, and we’re biased towards “quick-and-easy solutions”.

You already know that spray tan won’t make you a bodybuilder. The challenge is to extend that to your personal work, to your business, to everything. There’s nothing quick-and-easy about building something that matters. Muscles before spray tan.

(Image Credit: Way2Tan, Edge Creative Solutions.)

P.S: I sacrificed some precision in an attempt to improve communicability. In bodybuilding, the highest order bit is having big, striated muscles. Posing well comes second, and spray tans probably come third.

This isn’t the case in every single industry. Coke, for example, makes great sugary drinks, but their highest order bit is their powerful marketing. In some industries, the spray tan can be more important than the muscle. What’s important is that you figure out what the most important thing is- and it isn’t always what’s most talked about.

Visakan Veerasamy

Visa is ReferralCandy's Blog Editor. He also co-founded Statement.sg, a fashion ecommerce label selling witty t-shirts. He's been thrice named a Top Writer on Quora. He hopes to enjoy a glass of whiskey onboard a commercial space flight someday.

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