Weighing In On Health: Marketing Behavior Change

Let's face it, the health conversation today is unavoidable -- people are constantly barraged with messages about the perils of processed foods and the risks of diets high in sodium, saturated fat and high fructose corn syrup. We are continually being reminded of the importance of being active and eating right. And the marketplace is responding by providing more products that fit this bill (just look in your local supermarket for the abundance of these terms: organic, fresh, multi-grain etc).

Does this saturation of health messages drive the necessary behavior changes to improve Americans' long-term health? Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control would suggest not: 33% of U.S. adults and one in every five kids is now obese.

A recent NBCU survey revealed 76% of consumers polled believe what they put in their body has a significant effect on their future health, yet few do anything to be healthier (only 36% consider their diets to be very healthy).

So how can we market health and wellness better and motivate change? The key is to understand your customer and their attitudes towards health and wellness -- tailoring a message to resonate with each of these segments:



The I Give Ups (24% of population) This high-stress, low-energy group is overwhelmed by the amount of things they need to do to get healthy. They eat for convenience, treat themselves to unhealthy foods and need portion control. They know they should exercise, but can't get off the couch. Marketers should position healthy products to this segment as fun and indulgent, yet still cost-effective and convenient. Provide them with small and easy steps that they can do at home.

The Strugglers (14%) This group seeks quick and easy health solutions, rather than long-term lifestyle changes. They are not likely to exercise or eat right, yet will try the latest diets and health foods. This segment is most likely to have children, making it difficult to focus on their own health. Marketers should provide this segment with easy tips geared towards family health, with online tools to help them stay on track.

The Immortals (16%) Typifying young adulthood, "The Immortals" are in relatively good health and don't feel a strong need to eat healthier or exercise regularly -- at least not yet. Position healthy living as a "status symbol" to this group. Healthy messages incorporated into entertainment may be particularly impactful.

The Fitterati (16%) All about physical exercise, and less focused on nutrition and diet, "The Fitterati's" love sports, outdoor activities, or going to the gym. They are social and willing to spend money to look younger. Marketers who highlight the benefits of physical performance will hit their sweet spot.

The Fact Finders (15%) Mostly female, this segment actively focuses on diet, nutrition, exercise and medicine. Their thirst for information leads to better self-care and is an immediate marketing opportunity. They enjoy cooking healthy meals and choose healthy options when eating out. They are receptive to preventive health products (e.g., vitamins, nutritional supplements) as well as products with "natural" ingredients, low calories, and scientific support.

The Health Gurus (15%) Predominantly female (68%), with a high-income level and an empty nest, "The Health Gurus" are satisfied with their lifestyle and spend more time and money on their health. This segment has achieved a healthy body, mind, and spirit. Marketers can leverage "Gurus" as brand ambassadors, utilizing their influence and receptivity new products and services.

Source: Nationally projectable study conducted among over 3,000+ A18+ via online and telephone by Experian Simmons in December 2009.

Janet Gallent, NBC Universal's VP Consumer Insight & Innovation Research, also contributed to this article.

2 comments about "Weighing In On Health: Marketing Behavior Change ".
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  1. David Dolton, June 18, 2010 at 11:26 a.m.

    Interesting stuff. Maryam, I would welcome a conversation. Our scale at Point-of-Care is staggering: 120,000 physician offices, 360,000 physicians, reaching 40 million patients every quarter. Send a note and let's try to talk at some point:

  2. Laurie Gelb from Profit by Change, June 18, 2010 at 5:15 p.m.

    Ah, the seductiveness of syndicated health consumer segmentation...kind of like a warm cinnamon roll. And just as potentially deadly.

    Without seeing a questionnaire, I can't comment on the constructs used to derive the segments, but from decades of rigorous (e.g. published in clinical journals) research, I can state confidently that these distinctions are oversimplified and incomplete. Probably everyone reading this can think of at least one person outside all of these segments.

    Consider that different health choices are made using different criteria; that perceived stakes, commitment times and influencers also vary by the decision; that health choices can be re-evaluated every day; that product attributes in health offerings are much less predictable and durable than in other areas of life, etc.

    To understand and support health decisions, stratify on the type of choice, not some all-encompassing "health personality" or "bundle of product attributes." Field a user-driven questionnaire, not a one-size-fits-all, to elicit individual domains, measures and thresholds that actually drive choices. In short, dine only on cinnamon rolls and you will not live long.

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