Can a Brand Be Part of a Consumer’s Overall Plan for Wellness?

Many brands today are discovering the benefits of marketing on a health and wellness platform where appropriate. General Mills’ entire line of cereals touts “whole grain.”  Tropicana orange juice has product SKUs for “healthy hearts” along with vitamin D, calcium, antioxidants and healthy kids. Even Jeep is encouraging its potential buyers to find the freedom to live well in the great outdoors by getting “out there” in one of their vehicles. And how about McCormick Spices touting the medicinal effects of cinnamon and cumin?

What with the changes in healthcare legislation and Medicare, the way payers are adapting, increased FDA scrutiny and the like, it seems more and more responsibility for a person’s health and state of well-being is being placed on the individual. It’s becoming a public-policy imperative to help consumers stay well and recover faster. But increasingly, they have to go it alone and figure it out for themselves.

Health is defined as the overall condition of an organism at any given time.  Wellness, on the other hand, is thought of as the choices we make in any state of health. There are many dynamics of wellness:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Occupational
  • Cultural
  • Environmental
  • Spiritual
  • Intellectual

Given that we can choose to live “well” regardless of the specific state of health we’re experiencing at a given time, these dynamics begin to inform where a brand can fit into the choices consumers make in their quest for a healthier lifestyle. Being part of the solution rather than part of the problem, so to speak. The key to emotional well-being might be slipping on my Nike sneakers, having a glass of antioxidant OJ with my cinnamon donut, climbing into my Jeep and heading for the hills for a day of rest, relaxation and thoughts about the meaning of life.

So where is the health and wellness opportunity for brands today? There is brand growth opportunity by working in the two connected worlds of health and wellness and being a part of the consumer’s plan for wellness. Helping people aspire and choose to live as well as is humanly possible is not only important work—it can be profitable work for smart brands.

How? When brands are associated with positive outcomes for the consumer, the consumer will be more loyal to that brand, which makes them less susceptible to discounting, couponing, price promotion and brand switching.  This then leads to higher ROI due to more consistent purchasing patterns with less sensitivity to price.  And it’s a great fit for where the retail world is heading. Rite Aid has renamed its loyalty program “Wellness +” and stores such as Walmart and Safeway are plunging deeply into private label health and wellness products.

So what do you think?  Can brands step in where the healthcare system is stepping out?










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  1. SusanC
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    So Neil–hello. A build on your thinking–I suggest brands are not equipped to step in when the healthcare system steps out–unless the brand is involved in the business of health. The closer the brand is to care, treatment or prevention (including retailers), the greater the salience to “be part of the health care solution”. In non-healthcare categories, ie, the Cheerios and Jeeps of the world, the confidence and trust brands require for consumer good will is enhanced by being “good for you”. It is the cost of doing business in certain categories. Consumers remember when brands ARE NOT “good for you” …tainted pet food…bad lettuce at fast food outlets…harmful ingredients in OTC remedies. Empowering positive choices offers confidence that in a climate of change and uncertainty, one can at least control a small portion of one’s world.

  2. Chris Cooney
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Hi Neil! I hope you’re doing well. As a healthcare marketing guy, I liked your post very much. I think there are two parallel dynamics at play in the marketplace right now.

    One is consumers taking ownership of their own health status, and brands that empower consumers to do so are reaping rewards in terms of increased sales and more importantly in terms of further cementing relationships with their consumers.

    The other powerful dynamic is the impact of federal health care reform, which is creating accountable care organizations (ACOs) in the free marketplace and state-by-state health care exchanges (HIX) sparked by state and/or federal governments. Both have the potential to fuel consumer empowerment, as HIX provide greater access to health care coverage and thus products and services (if they work as intended), and ACOs come together around the end-to-end patient experience (i.e. it’s all about the patient, quality care, real outcomes and true costs). Add to that more than 30 million additional Americans receiving coverage under reform, and many more additional patients/consumers may have a new found relationship with their health.

    Both these dynamics are fundamentally changing the way brands need to relate to their customers. I think there’s a market breach and a substantial market opportunity for companies to relate to their consumers on a personal health level, and not just traditional health care-oriented organizations, but just about any company seeking a long term relationship with a consumer.

  3. Neil Contess
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Hi Cocco! Hey Chris! How great to see your comments on the blog. Hope you’re both doing well. Thanks for contributing. I think both of your insights are important and relevant. Cocco, I do agree that this approach would be more sweet spot for some brands and more stretch for others. My point in the Cheerios example is that of, and I’m guessing here, say 200MM consumer General Mills is targeting for its “more whole grain” cereals, about 56MM of them are under the active treatment of a doctor for some form of cardiovascular disease (high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, etc.) and that makes them a “patient” as well as a consumer. A brand like Cheerios might do well to message these people in a different way than the rest of the general population, given the mindset they’re in. Same might go for Nike. Much better chance of becoming a part of the healthcare solution.

    And Chris, you are spot on about the changing dynamics. It is analogous to financial reform in that many years ago most companies offered pensions for their employees. Very few people had to think about how their retirement was to be funded between social security and a pension. But now, with social security fading and 401k’s replacing pensions, the burden to plan for your financial future falls on the individual. This has given rise to the E-Trade and Schwab’s of the world. So to the extent they can educate and provide tools for managing your money/investments into retirement, the better positioned they will be as part of the solution. This is what I believe the changes to the healthcare system will bring as well.