Accelerating cultural and demographic change is rapidly changing the shape of demand and expectation within health. With customer appetite for empowerment and informed choice now insatiable, how should brand owners respond.
From interacting with the healthcare system, to lifestyle choices in self-medication, nutrition, exercise and personal care, customer demands have evolved beyond product, brand promise and feature and benefit superiority. The meaning of customer value is these markets can appear highly elusive. Yet those companies able to not only add but also capture value will be able to secure new areas of sustainable competitive advantage.
Health and wellness is a uniquely personal category. Consumer brand choices and the treatment options recommended by healthcare professionals can have a profound impact on an individual. Growing customer empowerment is now recasting a previously hierarchical relationship between expert and customer to that of a democracy, with the web forcing new levels of transparency in everything from price, functionality and competing alternatives.
Customer engagement within health and wellness is comparatively high vs other categories. Customers now understand their choices and are spending quality time to ensure they make ones that best suit their lifestyle aspirations. In markets where choice exists hospital selection may influence the quality of the intervention outcome. Self-medication choices are also recognised as altering the speed and journey of minor ailment recovery or can mask a more serious underlying condition. Even the choice of running footwear can play an unsuspected role in future health through it’s impact on the wear and tear of the knee joints.
Whilst many institutions within developed markets have suffered a loss of credibility and authority, this has not been the case for physicians, pharmacists, nurses and other healthcare providers. The role of the healthcare professional in influencing decision making can frequently be key. Their advice can be the most poignant and significant consumer interaction within the customer journey. However, they are both busy and have become savvy and often immune to marketing approaches. The challenge for marketing and sales professionals is increasingly the costs of achieving regular contact and how to maintain relevance within over-saturated me-too dominated markets.
We are also seeing the personal care markets undergoing major shifts. It is no longer sufficient for brands to be built on consumer brand promises enhanced with messaging aesthetics, and status associations. Science and technology has taken the previously mundane functional benefit into new areas of the brand positioning stage. A brief scan of the skincare and dental markets reveals claims that only a few years ago would have felt straight out of science fiction.
With this brave new world of health and wellness exhibiting such rapid-rates of Schumpeterian destruction and flux, brand owners must ensure they remain relevant by consistently recalibrating their understanding of the customer journey, finding new ways to add value and consistently delighting their customers through the design of their brand experience. This is no easy challenge. Whilst adding value can provide quick wins, delivering new initiatives that also capture that value and deliver longer-term profit are more complex and often require new and external sources of expertise.