The Wellness Movement Goes Mainstream

Traditional Medicine Embraces Health and Wellness Photo: Utah.gov

I find the WIKIPEDIA entry for “Wellness” so curious. It reads: “Wellness (alternative medicine).Wellness is generally used to mean a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of well-being.” That seems a very fundamental idea–encompassing a person’s total health–and yet it’s branded as “alternative.” Makes one wonder what the alternative to a “healthy balance” is.

We live in abundant times medically, Western or otherwise, and it’s inarguable that technology has had a profound effect on consumers who are now able to access medical information of the traditional variety as well as within the wellness sphere with a few clicks of a keyboard or smartphone. Technology has made us more informed patients, and proactive in our preventative care. To think, just a few years ago, most people’s assessments of wellness came once a year at their physical! Now, we can track our progress through a variety of digital devices that count steps, monitor medication, and track sleep patterns, among other things. Everyone is looking for information, a holistic alternative, a leg up, a new experience, and sometimes a quick fix.

The medical profession, retail pharmacists, employers, educators and health advocates are responding in a variety of ways to empower consumers. One result is that CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine) and Integrative Medicine (IM) have been making their way into major hospitals and teaching institutions since the early 2000s. While IM draws a very sharp distinction between itself and CAM these two camps embrace some of the same alternative modalities such as Yoga, acupuncture, meditation, massage therapies and herbal remedies, to name a few. IM makes the distinction of using only proven practices based in science.

Consumers are taking good health into their own hands with great enthusiasm, sometimes for better or worse. The good news is there is a plethora of choices for the adventurous or simply the health conscious. The internet is rife with bad information, pseudo-science, expensive supplements (how do you know what’s in them?), innumerable diets, and MoonDust, but along with the questionable, fun, interesting and informative pursuits are available as well to enrich our minds, bodies and spirits. The response across diverse industries indicates the mainstreaming of wellness.

The travel industry has responded with everything from wellness hotels and voluntourism, to yoga and walking tracks at airports. Spas abound, with locations as classic as Golden Door, or as exotic as Ananda In the Himalayas. Progressive consumers often drive the trends, and wellness is a new status symbol.

Technology and healthcare leaders have also capitalized on the wellness trend. In recent years at The International Consumer Electronics show (CES), the yearly extravaganza of everything new in drones, TVs, virtual reality headsets, robots and dozens of other concepts, an increasing amount of square footage has been devoted to the health and wellness sector. This includes not only companies like FitBit and Garmin, but UnitedHealthcare, a company vested in how the intersection of health and technology may empower people to take greater control of their everyday health. In 2017, UnitedHealth showcased mobile applications and health technology products and services meant to provide better tools for bring information to consumers across the platforms they’re becoming accustomed to.

On a more practical scale, some forward thinkers have given a boost to public wellness through policy or investment in healthful initiatives in the last decade. Our former First Lady, Michelle Obama, was a great proponent of healthy lifestyle for both children and adults. She brought much needed attention to childhood obesity, food labeling, exercise and more. The Los Angeles Food Policy Council has enacted one of the most progressive food policy in the nation, adopted by both the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), where it’s becoming a model for the rest of the country. The goal is to build a Good Food system for all Los Angeles residents — where food is healthy, affordable, fair and sustainable. Another interesting initiative is an experiment devised by the tech investor Esther Dyson, called the Way to Wellville,wherein five communities around the country have committed to a multi-year, strategic, customized experiment to improve the health of their citizens.

The truth is, that no amount of organic food, nor taking a thousand more steps, aromatherapy, mindfulness, aspirin or acupuncture can guarantee longevity, but good choices can contribute to our quality of life.

What would it look like if good, healthy habits began early for everyone, and healthy food and lifestyle choices were status quo and available and affordable to all? To me, it looks like the world I want to live in.

How Blue Apron Sparked My Joy of Cooking

 

Before deciding to become a Blue Apron subscriber, I was a typical New Yorker—I was an order-in addict. The delivery service from my corner diner was faster than most room service at any five-star hotel. I love the convenience of this mostly urban activity, but I wanted to do better.

For years I tried to get into the whole cooking-from-scratch process, but it was not something I enjoyed. For one, I didn’t trust myself when shopping for ingredients. I always bought too much of one spice or too much of another ingredient, and they would inevitably rot in my refrigerator and need to be discarded. Then, when I did cook, I resorted to simple meals like broiled fish and salad. One thing for sure, my meals were super healthy but very boring. And there I was—back to ordering take out.

About a year ago, a friend introduced me to Blue Apron. Blue Apron is a meal delivery service that provides you with all the ingredients, in exactly the right proportions, that you need to make a delicious meal. It seemed like the perfect solution for me.

From the moment I received my first delivery, I was hooked. It fits my lifestyle to a T and satisfies my need for healthy, appetizing variety. Each Monday I receive my delivery that contains all the fixings and the instructions needed to prepare three delicious recipes. Blue Apron offers several flexible options—you can choose traditional, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free menus, two-person or family-size portions, and the delivery day that works best for you.

With Blue Apron I did a mental turnaround — I gave up my take-out addiction and I have become a fan of cooking. Every time I think of my attitude shift, I remember the recipe book, The Joy of Cooking. With Blue Apron, I can actually connect joy, cooking, and myself in a sentence. This service transformed my feelings of inadequacy in the kitchen to feelings of confidence—I’ve even begun to experiment a bit and consider myself to be a chef-in-the-making! Now I look forward to cooking!

Using Blue Apron is like being in my own personal cooking class where I feel totally set up for success. The prep and cooking process are so simple and easy to follow and the meals are absolutely delicious. Most of all, preparing meals for myself using the quality ingredients that Blue Apron delivers each week makes me feel good about myself. In addition to saving money, I now have the peace of mind that I’m taking care of myself.

While the practical benefits of Blue Apron are undeniable, especially to a novice like myself, the brand’s long-term value is clearly enhanced by the promise I keep to myself each time I prepare a meal—my commitment to improving the quality of my life.

Questions to Consider

  1. What factors have contributed to the growth of services like Blue Apron, Plated, and The Portable Chef?
  2. What products and services have helped to improve the quality of your everyday life?
  3. How do you nurture and take care of yourself each day?

HealthStyles: A New Path to Value

We started our discussion about Value a little while back and our post on The Green Value Opportunity: Local Solutions was a first look at re-defining value in a way that resonates with consumers.

But, there is also a consumer-driven factor that is likely to impact this new value paradigm and we believe this is an attitude of responsibility.

With this mindset of responsibility playing an important role in the “stuff” consumers acquire, it will be important for marketers to imbue their products and services with attributes that reflect new values. This brings us to the notion of Health & Wellness which we view as another Value for marketers to take notice of.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that are contributing to the emergence of Health & Wellness – which we term the HealthStyles Value.

The Social Environment

Interest in HealthStyles is driven by several major demographic and social changes.

First, Americans in general are living longer – and people want to live those extra years “better.” As Iconoculture reported last year, several reputable studies have found that lifestyles that combine a healthy (low fat, high in fruits/vegetables) diet and moderate exercise may forestall Alzheimer’s and other mental declines. Consumer interest in learning about the importance of exercise in improving the quality of life was evident in the high “share” rate (the third most shared article of the day on nytimes.com) for John Hanc’s recent column, Staying on Balance, With the Help of Exercises. The article points out the importance of balance for our growing older population, and the share rate demonstrates just how much people are clamoring for this kind of information.

Second, despite the current recession, the overall cost of food continues a 20-year decline as percentage of a family’s income and obtaining adequate, nutritious food is now much more accessible to most people. Under the auspices of the Federal WIC Farmers Market Nutrition program, almost every state allows low-income residents to utilize food assistance cards/coupons to purchase locally grown foods at farm stands and farmers’ markets.

And third, with the recent move toward universal healthcare coverage, there is an increasing recognition that developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is more cost-effective over the long term. There are several high profile initiatives centering around the relevance of health consciousness including:

Let’s Move. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” project to address childhood obesity is an example of utilizing core Health & Wellness in a major policy initiative. The program incorporates nutrition education (with fresh foods in the forefront) and developing a lifelong, physically active lifestyle. By targeting children through engagement in growing and preparing healthy meals and incorporating “movement” into every child’s daily schedule – maintaining a healthy weight and fit body is easier and more natural.

NFL Play 60. Launched in 2007, NFL PLAY 60 is a national youth health and fitness campaign focused on increasing the wellness of young fans by encouraging them to be active for at least 60 minutes a day. Along with national outreach and online programs, NFL PLAY 60 is implemented at the grassroots level through NFL’s in-school, after-school and team-based programs. The program has targeted $200 million to address childhood obesity since its inception.

The Marketing Environment

Several companies are getting out in front of the Health & Wellness trend and are taking a holistic approach to promoting consumer products and services.

Whole Foods’ partnership with “Eat Right America” enables shoppers to create store-wide shopping lists tailored to different eating plans from vegan to allergy-aware to baby/toddler to weight management.

V-8’s “What’s Your Number” TV commercials highlight the fruit/vegetable nutrition count in their products with a focus on the positive effects of these beverages on consumers’ overall health. Weight Watchers just revised their famous points system to give dieters a free pass when consuming fresh fruits or vegetables – by identifying these items as “point-free,” members will be encouraged to increase consumption of more healthful (and lower calorie/fat) foods in their ongoing efforts to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

In April, Rite-Aid, the drugstore retailer launched their new Wellness+ rewards program. The loyalty program allows card holders to redeem points for free glucose and cholesterol screenings at local labs. As consumers search for savvy ways to stay healthy, has Rite-Aid found a unique way to leverage Health & Wellness to create more value in their relationship with their shoppers?

Even fast food companies like Wendy’s are getting in on the act by offering better-for-you french fries made with “Russett potatoes, leaving the skin on and sprinkling sea salt on top.”

While food, fitness and healthcare are a natural fit for the Healthstyles Value, we believe the possibilities go beyond these categories.

The Business Opportunity

Some brands are taking the long view and positioning their brands as offering benefits that contribute to a lifetime of health. Aquafresh toothpaste has gone beyond addressing the obvious attributes of fresh breath and white teeth – their new Aquafresh Iso-Active range is positioned to deliver “Strong, Healthy Teeth for a Lifetime.”

As Americans become more time and cash crunched, personal services such as Spas have suffered as customers cut time-consuming luxuries from their budgets. By repositioning spa services into 30-60 minute “wellness breaks” and focusing of revitalizing treatments versus pampering, day spas may be able to recapture past customers while building a new customer base.

In this rushed world more people are considering time spent away from work, recharging and enjoying recreation with family and friends, to be critical to their overall Health & Wellness. Products and services that enable consumers to utilize their work time most effectively and re-engage with family will be viewed as delivering this new Healthstyle value.

Microsoft’s new Windows 7 phone is leveraging that important value. In its “Really” campaign, users of competitors’ products are shown as disengaged and missing important milestones because using their smartphones is so time-consuming. In addition to clearly setting up the phone dilemna in this Windows 7 launch ad, an additional execution in the campaign directly reflects the HealthStyles value by showing how the Windows 7 phone supports a fulfilling, “healthy” lifestyle experience.


Which other product or service categories do you think could benefit from integrating the HealthStyles Value into their branding efforts?

The New Value: Going Way Beyond Price

The Landscape


In this time of near double-digit unemployment, rampant underemployment, sky-rocketing home foreclosures and other adverse economic factors, the emergence of the tightfisted consumer was totally predictable. What was spawned from necessity does not appear to be a short-term strategy. Rather, it is becoming a way of life for a majority of Americans.

Harris Interactive reports that American consumers continue to hold the line on spending, with 63% purchasing more generic (private label) branded products. This behavior is consistent across generations.

A recent study from Decitica, Marketing to the Post-Recession Consumers posits that consumer spending patterns have been profoundly altered by the current recession and we are now entering a period of “new normal.” Decitica has identified four distinct consumer segments – Steadfast Frugalists, Involuntary Penny-Pinchers, Pragmatic Spenders, and Apathetic Materialists.

While consumers’ commitment and focus on finding the lowest prices vary, it’s clear that price-related value is no longer a competitive advantage. Rather, it has become an expected attribute for many purchasers.

The traditional retail “fix” of offering discounts is no longer (or is fast becoming) like email SPAM. In other words, buyers are applying their own mental filters to these offers, going for the lowest price point across many product categories. But, this approach has resulted in store brands in some categories becoming category leaders – suggesting that lower pricing as a strategy is a form of value that brand marketers cannot sustain.

Given these conditions, it is clear that the days of price discounts as the sole expression of value are over.

As consumers navigate the new economic world order, more than ever, they want to feel they are getting the best value for their money. Marketers will need to be more inventive in their offers and create products as well as marketing messaging that imbue brands with discernible value. So the question is this:

In what ways might marketers re-create brand value in today’s environment?

It begins with looking at value through an entirely new lens.

A New View of Value

In recent years, companies have begun to enhance brand value with what might be described as product-driven, functional value strategies.

Some brands, many in the Procter & Gamble stable, are combining well-recognized attributes of premium brands such as Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty, Mr. Clean with Febreze Freshness, Tide with a Touch of Downy to offer consumers an assurance of product performance and desirable attributes. This brand-combining strategy has enabled P&G to maintain its premium priced edge.

In the current new campaign for 1800 Tequila, the commercial’s protagonist points to the functionality of the cap as a point-of-difference with Patron.

Clearly, if there are product elements that can be leveraged as these examples demonstrate, marketers should naturally capitalize on these product advantages. But, there is also a consumer-driven factor that is likely to strengthen this trend towards a new value paradigm and we believe this is an attitude of responsibility. Specifically, people are becoming more responsible when it comes to the ‘stuff’ they acquire.

When you layer on facts like declining disposable income or postponing retirement out of financial necessity, it is inevitable that the purchase decision process will be more conscious, even introspective as buyers weigh their choices. And, the factors weighed are likely to reflect factors that might not have considered in the past. With these shifting attitudes, we believe there are new value areas to be mined-areas that people will resonate to more deeply-a higher order level of value.

As we look to redefine value in this new era, it is important to look at areas that are likely to have an enduring impact on consumers’ purchase decision process. We believe these reflect what used to be incidental benefits but now are more at the forefront that ever before. By tapping into these avenues of opportunity, brand perceptions will be enhanced and companies will have a chance to make a new impression in the marketplace.

In subsequent posts, we will feature the New Value opportunities. Stay tuned to our first discussion – the Green Value opportunity.