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Imagine a world where you introduce your friends by their workout regimen: CrossFit or SoulCycle? And instead of connecting with others based on your hometown, you kick off the conversation with the location of your last marathon. As people become increasingly health-conscious, this world where the personal health brand takes center stage doesn’t seem so far away.
The personal health brand as an extension of self
The concept of a personal brand isn’t new—just take a look at the number of self-help books focused on how to build one. But what is a personal brand exactly? Simply put, it’s about cultivating a public image that defines who you are and how you’d like to be perceived by others.
The personal health brand is simply an extension of your personal brand but is one of the more intimate forms of self-expression. Health, by nature, reflects a certain state of being, one that reflects your personality, your wellness beliefs, and your health goals, and the condition—or ideal condition—of your body. Many healthcare companies are aware of the deep connection between our health, wellness ideals, activities and practices and our personal identity. Therefore, in order to stay relevant, they are tapping into their customers’ personal health brands to create solutions that address customer needs and pain points.
Health as a means of self-identification
When did health—as a subject, and even a passion—become so ubiquitous? Traditionally, the concept of “health” has been strongly linked to disease and illness, but today’s definition of health is more about empowering, “upgrading,” and life enhancement. This de-stigmatization of health has given us permission to reclaim what it means to be healthy, thereby transforming it into a status symbol.
So, what is the social context that has driven this shift? Part of it is about a change in attitude in younger generations, a pervasive spirit of openness and transparency online, and a trend toward using image and personal messaging to shape others’ perceptions of who we are—that is, our personal brands.
Millennials are leading the charge, in this regard. Independent and idealistic, they are as ambitious as they are purpose-driven, but most of all, they aren’t afraid to express who they are, what they like, and what they’re doing—out loud.
Rather than keeping health statistics a secret, they proudly publicize their latest running routes. Instead of concealing digital health devices under their shirts, they don fitness trackers on their wrists as fashion accessories. As health moves beyond wellness and into the realm of personal identity, there is a pressing desire among a growing number of people to cultivate their personal health brands.
What does this mean for brands?
This strong sense of self, coupled with the systemic pressure to stand out from the crowd, has not only changed consumer behavior, but also the brand-consumer relationship by extension. Historically, brands have been the producers of goods and consumers have been purchasers, but now the brand-consumer relationship is evolving, becoming more reciprocal and collaborative.
In an age in which every avenue of communication represents a channel for fostering community, brands must realize their shifting role in the world as co-creators in an increasingly collaborative environment, one in which consumers take on a more participative role as inventors, promoters, and even retailers.
Brands that understand the nature of this symbiotic relationship will naturally transcend the role of producer, and realize that their place in consumers’ lives isn’t just about delivering a product, but something more complex, multi-faceted, and personal. By creating venues for experiences, brands can tap into consumer lifestyles and build communities, which will become the living heart and soul of these brands.
At InterbrandHealth, we believe that leading brands must enable both business and personal value creation. As brand-consumer interactions continue to evolve, healthcare brands should examine changing dynamics and start identifying opportunities to leverage the personal health brand, in particular, as a way to deepen the brand-consumer relationship. If they do, they will not only gain loyalty and brand strength, but will also change peoples’ lives for the better in the process.