These are boom times for the organic sector, as American consumers are increasingly seeking “organic” or “all-natural” options. According to the 2011 Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll, if given a choice, 58% of US adults would prefer to eat organic—and the marketplace has responded accordingly. In fact, according to market research done by Mintel, even a few years ago the “no additives/preservatives” claim was the second most common claim in the United States, with 2,243 new products launched with it. But this organic consciousness goes far beyond the purchasing of food according to claims on a label; organic consciousness is really part of, or has grown into, a much larger movement, one that marketers have coined the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability, or LOHAS.
In the main stream and on Main Street
Based on the latest census of 215 million people, Packaged Facts reports, approximately one in five of all U.S. adults is currently considered a LOHAS consumer. That’s around 41 million people, and the purchasing power of LOHAS is valued at $290 billion.
LOHAS consumers are concerned not only with terms like antibiotic-free, preservative-free, natural, and organic, but also ideas and behavior that pertain to the environment and the global community as a whole. LOHAS consumers embrace concepts such as sustainability, fair trade, recycling, and renewable energy. The emphasis is on behavior—not just on what we put in our shopping carts at the grocery store, but the behavior of manufacturers and corporations, of farmers, fishermen, shop owners, and of course, individuals. In a very real sense, this organic consciousness has evolved into organic behavior. And organic behavior is now a huge influencer when it comes to marketing.
Recognizing organic behavior
What does organic behavior look like in marketing? Well,
the obvious standout is in the social media space. More and more, people are turning to blogs, online communities, and feeds like Twitter to learn about products and services straight from their
peers. No extraneous ingredients, as it were. In fact, one might say that the very placement of media has shifted to an organic and all-natural approach. The decrease in broadcast spend and the
increase in digital and mobile media reflect where consumers are spending considerably more time conducting their own entertainment and consumer research.
The organic behavior of consumers is driving a move toward sustainability in marketing as well. Think of the behavior changes here: the move away from Styrofoam at McDonald’s, to the ubiquitous “paper or plastic?” at the checkout line. Paperless billing, mobile coupons, and the advent of “Groupons” are all examples of marketing that is more environmentally friendly, and—in the last example—even promotes the concept of buying local.
How does one measure the impact of this rise of organic consciousness? One way is the aforementioned consumer market research. Another is to examine sales trends in relevant CPG dietary and health products. And yet another is to listen to online consumer conversations on social media. Not surprisingly, moms lead the way in wanting organic, all-natural, healthy, and preservative-free solutions for their kids, so forums with a high motherhood demographic index are a good place to spread the word. Also consider the sources of your Web site traffic for engagement in goal-oriented behavior. Typically “organic” visitors who type in the URL directly are of highest quality because they have background information on a particular product or company and want to find out more. What other media or referral sources even come close to that level of quality visitors?
What’s interesting is that today, the organic nature of social and online media itself seems to be one of the greatest propagators of raising organic consciousness, leading more and more people to change their behaviors as consumers and as citizens. Which could lead one to ponder the question: Which came first, the organic chicken or the organic egg?