Wellness and health are not effective brand positions

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

11 April 2011

They are just not emotional or different

One of the most overrated brand positions is the one along the lines of “Be healthy.” This is a position that many companies and products have tried to claim, believing they are catching a new desire and wave that’s just now sweeping the world.

The problems with those wellness brand positions are many. For one, health has rarely been a winning strategy for the long term. Also, few brands have permission to claim it. And brand positions of good health is claimed by so many brands that target audiences will most likely not see you as a different choice.

“More importantly, uncover the emotional reasons why target audiences want to be healthy outside of the inane lifestyle messages that are currently being delivered.”

There is another reason, though: It’s not emotional. Or, at least, it’s not emotional in the ways brands often define it. They just say they will make you healthy, but they don’t align themselves with the emotional reasons why you want to be healthy. Those emotions are what drive preference.

A few health brand positions that just don’t work

A couple of recent examples: Uncle Ben’s rice is launching a new campaign centered on “Begin with Ben,” which emphasizes the healthy choice of eating rice. The problem here is that there are so many healthy eating choices that Uncle Ben’s has not given anyone a reason to choose it over the rest. In fact, it violates the first rule of marketing: It’s about Uncle Ben when it should be about the customer.

brand positionsThe “begin” part of the tagline does intrigue me a bit, as it suggests starting a new plan. But I wish it were a little less clever. Clever is simply not believable as it sounds like it was written by a marketing person instead of the company itself. Even “Start with Ben” or “Start Over” would be more concise and believable. Plain spoken, with a bit of awkwardness, is best.

Even coupled with the brand’s “supports a healthy heart” graphic, Uncle Ben’s has not uncovered the emotional reasons why we want to be healthy. Even if it was about wanting a more active lifestyle, living longer or being more attractive, there are emotional underpinnings of those that would be more persuasive. (It could be, for example, about wanting to be “accepted.” Just a thought.)

Even worse is a new initiative by Walgreens, which is sponsoring Walk With Walgreens events around the country. Walkers trade in “steps” for rewards. This is a permission problem because Walgreens is not about health. It is about convenience and low price, like a drug store from the 60s that sells everything from cigarettes to lawn chairs to photo developing. It’s an outdated model that’s currently sinking Rite-Aid.

The point is, before you develop brand positions based on health, remember a few things. Make sure you have permission to claim it and, if you don’t, then make changes. Analyze your competition to see if anyone else has claimed it in a meaningful way.

Most importantly, uncover the emotional reasons why target audiences want to be healthy outside of the inane lifestyle messages that are currently being delivered.

And, also, make sure you actually believe that message will move audiences to act. Most of us talk about living a healthy lifestyle, but the truth is that we choose for other reasons (brand). And they are the reasons why obesity reigns in our country and McDonalds swallows up its competition.

See more posts in the following related categories: brand positions healthy brands healthy choices Uncle Ben rice Walgreens


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