Sunday, January 15, 2012

Is Health and Wellness the New Selling Gimmick?

 Our lives have taken a change. Honestly I don't know whether it is for the better. With the convenience of machines, physical activity seems to be slowly coming to a standstill. There was a time when I used to walk to school - a good 4 kilometres; catch the Gen Y walking even 1 kilometre! Walking 3 flights of stairs is difficult, when you have the elevator.

We have to now make do with specially created spaces like gyms etc. to undertake physical activity. No wonder there is a mushrooming of gyms and similar centres across the world. Good health was always important to the end consumer but more so now with an increased awareness of the repercussions of poor health.

Media has played its part. There are large numbers of programs across all media channels. Online media have only served to propagate this further.  Regular and dedicated medical social networks give audiences a platform to share, compare and discuss their personal health issues with other consumers.

Last but not least, the 'consumerization' of health means that more consumers will be inclined to choose products with embedded health benefits.

Marketers have capitalized on this across the spectrum and more often than not, released products with a health tag - for good or bad. Some are needed and some of not but I guess that is why we have always had good marketers and bad ones!

In a sense, the consumers are lethargic and are looking for easier options without exerting themselves much. Naturally growing numbers of consumers will expect health products and services to help them improve their quality of life. If a machine can do it why should they?

Let’s explore this further.
  • Sanitary ware - The not so glamorous sanitary ware are coated with a unique glaze. A distinct substance which is fused into the glaze has a capability of entering bacteria cells and subsequently destroying the metabolism. This means that the glaze has a unique nature of inhibiting bacterial growthEven the toilet covers are infused with anti-bacterial agents so that when you sit.....
  • Automobiles – In the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show even car manufacturers want you to be healthy. Ford announced a collaboration with Microsoft,  Healthrageous, and BlueMetal Architects to bring health monitoring into cars and showed off a prototype of a future health system. The system will be able to capture biometric data from devices such as pacemakers and glucose monitors, and will also be able to accept voice input from the driver.
  • Electronics
Moving away from the direct functional benefits, some electronics majors have introduced a health oriented line which are products tweaked towards to a healthy connection.
    • Refrigerators - Cutting the jargon, from its  collection, LG has a product features Green Ion door cooling technology which has an Ion Coated Filter that can filter air combined with ions to  prevent mould, micro bacteria and unpleasant odours, so the food can stay fresh up to 2.5 times longer. Amongst other features some of the refrigerators have Anti-Bacterial Gasket which simply is a tight gasket which keeps microbes away.
    • Microwaves - Enough has been spoken about the healthy aspects of healthy aspects of microwave cooking from usage of lesser amounts  of fats to killing of microbes.
    • Washing machines - The latest 'healthy' product is the steam washing machine. Whirlpool & LG amongst others have introduced this. According to LG, steam is used to sanitize fabrics of such things as dust mites and pet dander. It can do this because the high temperatures of the steam break up allergens effectively.
  • Mobile services - Apart from the convenience aspects mobile service providers like Vodafone and Aircel have health related services. Both have a crisis lines. Vodafone offers health tips to its subscribers on a paid basis. Health services will encapsulate personalised health tips, pregnancy, childcare, respiratory, heart, diabetes and general health and fitness tips for men and women.
Aircel has tied up with hospitals to offer services over the phone and personalised home services.

Since ‘Staying Healthy’ is a primary concern for consumers, Nokia has designed Ovi Life Tools which provides amongst others health tips. This service was designed to provide information on the following areas: pregnancy and child care advices for mother and child, health and fitness information for men and women and basic information on health issues like respiratory problems, diabetes and maintaining a healthy heart.
  • Lighting – Lighting companies have taken the healthy route too. Canlyte ( A Philips Company) and Verilux  provide healthy lighting. Canlyte claims to have positive psychological and physiological affects; improve productivity; recuperation and comfort;  reduce eyestrain and headaches and  improve human energy levels through improved, customized technologies and innovative solutions.
  • Gaming - Both Microsoft and Sony have recently released motion-sensing game controllers: the X-Box Kinect and PlayStation Move. The systems use cameras (and a controller for the Move) to detect users' movements during gameplay. The controllers were designed not only to heighten the gaming experience but also, much like the Nintendo Wii, to add a physical and healthy dimension to it, with games like EA Sports Active 2 and Get Fit with Mel B.
  • App stores -There were nearly 17,000 health apps available in major app stores in November 2010, with 57% of them being aimed at consumers rather than health care professionals. (Source: Research2Guidance, November 2010)
I have not touched on the most obvious categories like Food & Beverages, Footwear and Clothing which are to me, the most obvious areas which health will touch first.

Many brands/ companies like to ride the way of a trend. The health oriented products have had mixed results. But increased consumerization of health and wellness will have different categories riding on the wave because (using the cliché) health is wealth!


virgovim said...

Hi Vejay, from the title I thought you might have had a negative view on the burgeoning "health and wellness" trend in product marketing. I guess I was wrong. It's not really a "gimmick" if the product fulfills its promise, is it? The trouble is, we have but 1 life to live. At the right "price point" and given a suitably attractive product, the average person would rather hope and pray that the health benefits work, than otherwise. Most of the time, the benefits are rarely measurable to the layman or without the use of considerable scientific or technical tools anyway. All this is made worse by celeb endorsements or even social sharing where people "swear" by the benefits.

S Vejay Anand said...

Dear Vimal, There is little negativity because as you said some them are not quantifiable or backed by authentic data.
I am all for tangible benefits.

Kunal said...

The challenge is to make people feel the tangible benefits (probably instantly). One who can do it will have easy acceptability in market. Which is difficult because impact on health is a long term phenomena.
People will love to spent for a healthy option. But the 'future' (improbable) benefits discourages 'present' extra premium one has to doll out.
A marketer who can remove this gap in present and future shall reap. In some industries it will be easy to do. Like one can have a Green zonal rooms/suits in a hotel/resort with an additional 'Healthy' Menu insert and Yoga room with some AV systems attached.

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