Think back to five years ago. Would the words “probiotics” or kale have been at the tip of your tongue? Chances are, the answer is no. But both offer good illustrations of how our dietary-focused culture is increasingly adopting new types of specialty nutritional foods and supplements for their perceived health benefits. The typical consumer is no longer confined to “granola eaters” – and dietary supplements are now clearly mainstream … and big business.
Good, old-fashioned marketing has and does play a significant role in the consumer acceptance of these super foods, but other forces are also at work. Whatever product you are marketing, what can be learned from these success stories and how can they impact marketing efforts within the overall dietary supplements category? After all, at the end of the day, consumers are looking to dietary supplements for better health and longevity – and when it comes to the buying process, instilling consumer confidence is the name of the game.
Here are key factors that are catalyzing the conversation for marketers to note:
Women Are the Buyers: If you don’t reach the women in the household, your marketing success is questionable. Women are documented to be more aware of new health trends and more enthusiastic about incorporating new offerings into daily living. They are also the biggest “key influencers” – talking, tweeting, posting, and pinning with a vengeance. As consumer word-of-mouth advocates, they are priceless in terms of instilling organic credibility.
Believability: One of the most powerful sources of product visibility is third-party reference from credible sources. Kale is an interesting example. Once it won imprimatur “super food” status and celebrity chefs such as Bobby Flay offered kale recipes, it entered the pantheon of foods that hip, healthy households “had to have.” The power of this type of endorsement from influentials and celebrities provides strong believability.
Physician Advocacy: At one time, supplements were not a primary part of traditional medicine. Today, physicians have embraced these nutrients and recommend them on a regular basis. And it doesn’t hurt to have a celebrity physician such as Dr. Oz providing direct or indirect support for your product, brand or category.
Consumer Education: The above tools are all part of an essential foundational education campaign you need to establish in order to instill consumer confidence in a supplement. Consumer education is the heavy lifting part of the program – and you can’t do too much. We are an information-overload society now and consumers expect to be able to click on their smartphones and instantaneously get information on virtually any subject. It’s your job to make sure thorough details about your product are available at the end of that click.
Reputation Management: In the age of social media, you also can’t “un-ring” a negative bell caused by bad reviews or consumer comments. Claims also must be credible and never overstated. Consumers are a skeptical group and it’s always better to take a cautious approach and build ironclad, defensible support, rather than over-reach at the beginning with unsupported or misguided assertions about what your product can deliver – and then have to do damage control.
Industry Safety Protocols: One dynamic within the supplement space in particular – that marketers can leverage when it comes to building consumer confidence – is the fact that the supplement industry today is very safe. The industry, especially the larger brands, "police" themselves, so to speak. Often the top brands will even test competitor products off the shelf to ensure they meet label claims. And when it comes to maintaining quality within the name brand arena, the largest brands have to operate against uniformly pristine gold standards. The FDA is also constantly observing and testing the marketplace. This aspect of our industry makes it even easier for marketers to speak with confidence about the merits of supplement products.
So if you’re marketing, or thinking of marketing, a dietary supplement, the lessons learned from the increasing popularity of supplements, probiotics and kale center on the fact that – while credibility comes in many forms – it cannot be forced. You need to cultivate third-party endorsements, mine any studies that speak to health benefits, conduct intensive social media monitoring and reputation management, and be reminded to not over-reach. We are a more health-conscious culture today than ever before – and, fortunately, there is ample room for new entrants in the supplement market.