Commentary

Prescription For Innovation 2009

With clouds continuing to darken over the economy, marketers are, not surprisingly, focused on the trends of the moment--value, downsizing, staying in.

But to maintain the health of brands over the long haul, it's important not to become too distracted by the here and now. When it comes to innovation, it's critical to look beyond the abyss.

Trends spotted today will inspire the innovation that comes to fruition in 2010, 2011 and 2012. By that time (hopefully, almost certainly), the clouds will be clearing and value, downsizing and staying in will be the last things consumers want to hear. So, herein follow some consumer behaviors, beliefs, hopes and wants that we believe will bridge from today to tomorrow--and help marketers focus on the other side instead of getting too spooked by looking down into the abyss.

Personal Equity: With real estate no longer a sure-bet investment, people will be turning from home equity as their safety net to something over which they can have a lot more control--personal equity. Whether it's job training to retread for an evolving economy or eating and exercising to better one's health, investing in self will be the investment with the best long-term return. Brands like Weight Watchers, with its new Momentum program, are well-positioned to benefit from this trend, promising that "what you learn will stay with you for a lifetime."

Health From The Neck Up: With conditions such as heart disease and cancer topping the list of U.S. killers, consumers have spent a lot of time and money eating, exercising and medicating the body from the neck down. As life expectancy continues to increase, however, and more Americans are forced to live with conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and macular degeneration, consumers will pay more attention to preserving health from the neck up at any age. Expect to see more products like Kellogg's Live Bright Brain Health Bars and Unilever's Amaze Brainfood catering to the need for a healthy head.

Brand U.: Channels of communication are opening up between brands and consumers, creating a completely new dynamic in branding where selling benefits are no longer enough. Going forward, brands will need to sell information. They will need to educate consumers, replacing the 15-second sound bite with a 15-minute discussion. Responding to this hunger for information, McCormick has created the McCormick Science Institute, dedicated to advancing research on the health benefits of herbs and spices, and created a Spices For Health site to teach consumers about all the health benefits contained in that tiny teaspoon of spice.

Why Weight?: Weight has always been a bit of a waiting game: "I'll wait to buy the great clothes until I drop a few pounds." But with no sign that the needle on the scales may be peaking, consumers will increasingly say "why wait?" and look for clothes like J. Brand's Blue Label jeans that help them look great even though their BMI may be north of normal on the charts.

Third Life: Retirement will become an outmoded concept and be replaced by the Third Life, following the First Life dedicated to school and the Second Life (the non-virtual one, anyway) dedicated to work. As an increasing number of baby boomers hit the magic 65, they will begin to have their mark on this life stage as they have on every life stage before it. No more "pencils down." With better health and less social security than their forebears, those living the Third Life will not be thinking about endings, but beginnings--new career, new causes, new adventures, new relationships.

Involvement Frequency: People may still use the term "loyal" when describing their relationship with a country or favorite sports team. But in the future, consumers are much more likely to describe the relationship with a brand in terms of involvement frequency. Rather than tracking loyalty, brands will need to understand how to drive depth and frequency of involvement across the complete brand experience, by day, week, month, season and annual cycle.

Tiers of Wellness: For many consumers, wellness is becoming a continuous journey with progressive tiers of experimentation and commitment. Consumers now have a vast repertoire of choices, and they will experiment opportunistically and progressively as they look for effective health solutions. This presents enormous opportunities for health and Rx brands that build their positionings based on differing attitudes in these Tiers of Wellness. Brands can play a role on the rich journey of discovering wellness, putting aside the linear view that they can drive behavior on the path of: condition awareness, diagnosis, prescription and compliance. Examples include Sudafed Shower Soothers moving them beyond pure treatment and tapping into soothing/care behaviors, and Rx Essentials from Nature Made.

Flora and Fauna Technology: As many consumers are looking for smarter, safer, more efficacious products, natural will broaden in definition. In the next 5-10 years there will be an explosion of flora and fauna technologies-derived solutions, soft and hard claims to meet these new consumer needs. From extracts to serums, in personal care and food, to non-synthetic alternatives, consumers will look deeper and deeper at the natural technology stories behind the ingredients. Antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and polyphenols will be branded in an increasingly engaging way, and consumers will be more willing to absorb this knowledge in a world where brands play an increasing role as educator.

The Male Prerogative: When it comes to men caring about grooming and appearance, once the real honeymoon is over, the proverbial honeymoon is over, too. Once married, the average guy stops pretending to care so much about how he smells and looks. But as younger twenty-something men--who truly do care about how they smell and look--tie the knot, it will become the male prerogative to invest time and money in appearance and grooming even after marriage. Have his wife buy the same old grooming products? Fuggedaboutit. Those Axe grads are going to look for more sophisticated men's brands that fit their thirty-something and forty-something needs--brands like Zirh and Anthony Logistics for Men.

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