Health becomes a state of being

The health sector has been growing for years, as illustrated by the ever-increasing M&A activity in the space, particularly by nontraditional health players like Amazon, Apple, Google, etc. But until now, companies outside of the sector primarily saw the health space as an opportunity for portfolio diversification or innovation. Things are changing. Brands are thinking about health as more than a market to share in.

The new status of health

A new global culture has emerged in which the understanding of “health” has evolved from the absence of illness into a vehicle for self-expression. People now engage with health in the same way they do brand-driven products and experiences that allow them to identify with a shared set of values and evoke a particular lifestyle. Consumers go beyond defining health in terms of sick or well; it’s a state of mind and not just a physical need. When health is not tied to illness, it can operate closer to self-actualization—today, wellness is being viewed as a status symbol.

InterbrandHealth tracking shows that up to 32% of people in the US who are interested in supplements consider themselves highly status motivated in their attitudes toward wellness—for example, spending up to USD $220 per month on average on wellness-related offerings such as meal delivery programs, fitness trainers, and massage therapy. When they engage with any brand, they ask: “How does this help me curate my healthy lifestyle?” Whether purchasing a shirt, car, phone, or beverage, customers consider how a product or service contributes to their holistic well-being or expresses their healthy lifestyles. Brands have tremendous opportunity to drive engagement by tapping into this new customer mind-set.

From problem to evolution

When we look at psychographic segmentation, health is at the forefront of decision-making and expression of personality. Our data indicates that 15–30% of the general population sees traditional problem-solving products (supplements, medical devices, etc.) as life-enhancing products. They don’t want to identify with the problem; they want to see how it will maintain, enhance, or improve their general state of well-being.

Though millennials have played a large role in driving this new culture, this mentality is age agnostic. Even baby boomers who are embracing the Aging in Place trend are looking forward to a “third act in life,” as opposed to expressing anti-aging attitudes. In fact, 87% of adults 65-plus look forward to staying in their homes and communities as they age. As a result, many brands are playing within the health space, some primary, some secondary. Apple, for example, is moving into clinical research with its ResearchKit, which facilitates app development for medical research. Meanwhile, Amazon is exploring prescription home delivery.

Consumers now have multifunctional desires for the brands they bring into their lives—brands now express their personalities, values, and beliefs. Growth in the wellness space is being driven by a new ideology around what brands ultimately enable people to do or achieve.

In the healthcare industry, considering the competitive set, businesses need to look at the market in a broader way. It’s no longer direct competitor versus direct competitor—because it’s no longer about features and benefits. Health is an ecosystem that operates B2B2C. Companies need to consider their brands’ role in this ecosystem—and their influence on the new health culture—in order to drive growth.

Leading the culture shift

Today, the problem you solve is table stakes. It’s about the bigger ideology, defining the role the brand plays in consumers’ lives, and creating the touchpoints to facilitate ideological expression. When building brands, we’re looking beyond existing touchpoints to other places where the brand should show up, where it may not play a direct role, but where there is a link to this emerging holistic mind-set.

Health has a leadership role to play in this larger culture shift, and an opportunity to gain from it. Brands need to reflect how people want to be, and how they see themselves. That means tapping into this new mentality that “health and wellness” can enable self-actualization. Brands in the healthcare sector that address this change will attract desirable target audiences and reestablish their leadership positions.

All brands that embrace health as a growth driver of their businesses should consider the following questions:

  • Who is the true influencer when it comes to this new health mind-set—who creates the context for a health and wellness decision?
  • What role does your brand play in the broader ecosystem?
  • How are you controlling the conversation in this new wellness ecosystem and not just across the traditional continuum of care?

Connecting the functionality of products and services to the broader story of consumers’ self-fulfillment will allow healthcare brands to play—and succeed—in the broader marketplace.

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Senior Director, Strategy
Director of Marketing, InterbrandHealth