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How does a healthcare brand, in this case a health system, ensure its future brand relevancy?

By standing out in ways that really matter to consumers (differentiation), by delivering a “branded” and delighting customer experience (experience offering), by tapping into emotions and creating an instinctive attraction that goes beyond rational needs (emotional pull) and by constantly moving and evolving to surprise and delight its audiences (dynamism). In other words, doing what Toledo Ohio-based ProMedica healthcare network is going.

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ALL healthcare brands sell something. Like healthcare for their communities.

GOOD healthcare brands stand for something. Like Hospital For Special Surgery’s commitment to helping people get back in the game.  For context, outside of healthcare I think about BMW, American Express, Walgreens and RedBull.

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Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 2.25.31 PMHere’s a quick read for beauty marketers from – What’s trending in the natural anti-aging category right now?

The article cites a few recent natural-based ingredient launches targeting the anti-aging beauty market. Upshot is that increasingly sophisticated solutions are being designed to provide effective “natural source” formulations for skin care, supplements and hair care products.

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As reported in Fast Company, Cleveland Clinic is taking an important step to take telehealth mainstream. But it’s also taking an important step to ensure its healthcare brand relevance – by altering the way people look at the healthcare purchase decision and use experience and by changing how they buy.

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The 2016 Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA took place earlier this month. It’s a huge show – 3,000 exhibitors and 75,000 attendees representing the entire value chain of healthy products – across food & beverage, dietary supplements, natural beauty & personal care, showcasing today’s hottest new natural brands and tomorrows developing trends. For Trajectory, it’s really inspiring, as we work at the intersection of healthcare, personal care and wellness & active living.

My top three takeaways include:

1. The impressive and sustained growth across all Natural Products categories

2. Current state of consumer trust (or distrust), skepticism and anxiety

3. The three macro forces that will shape the future of the food & beverage, supplement, natural beauty & personal care industries and the smart brands that are successfully harnessing these forces.

The State of the U.S. Natural Products Industry (*NMI, New Hope Network data)

“Natural” is no longer niche. Rather, as these numbers indicate, we see it as the wave of the future. Overall the U.S. Natural Products Industry, which includes Food & Beverage, Supplements and Natural Living, grew 9.5% to almost $180B in 2015. Organic is growing faster than natural and of all categories Natural Living: Natural Beauty & Personal Care is the fastest growing and poised to continue this trend. Segment performance 2015 over prior year below:

Natural & Organic Food and Beverage: $67.2 Billion, + 10.7% increase
Functional Food and Beverage: $54.6 Billion, + 6.9% increase
Dietary Supplements: $39 Billion, +6.2% increase
Natural Living: Natural Beauty & Personal Care: $18 Billion, +13.4% increase

State of the U.S. Consumer

Overall, the U.S. consumer is distrustful of many mainstream products and their associated industrial processes. As an illustration, New Hope research indicates that OTC has the lowest trust profile of supplements, pharmaceuticals and OTC. Meanwhile the sales of natural herbs and botanical supplements are quite strong (nearly $7B/2015). Innovative combination herb products, formulated for specific health conditions are doing very well – and brands like Zarbees, herbal cold & flu products for children – appear to be filling the trust void.
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These statistics from NMI/New Hope Network reveal just how skeptical and anxious the U.S. consumer is about their products and their lives:

• 63% read food labels before purchase
• 54% select food based on ingredient list
• 46% concerned about chemicals in personal care products
• 34% concerned about chemicals in laundry products
• 76% believe most manufacturers are focused more on profit than health
• 77% indicate relieving stress would increase the quality of life
• 33% indicate increasing level of stress over last 10 years (over 50% for Millennials)

The 3 Macro Forces Favorably Impacting Consumer Trust

New Hope Network has identified 3 macro forces that are working to increase consumer trust and will keep the Natural Products industry growing at double digits into the foreseeable future. Cited from Natural Products EXPO West – State of the Industry Keynote as follows:

• Ancient Wisdom
• Rehabilitation of Science
• Value(s) Shoppers

Ancient Wisdom
Harkening back to the days of pre-industrialized foods and a simpler way of life, the focus here lies on whole, nutrient-dense ingredients and a “closer to nature” approach to processing. Driven by a great awakening of the consumer, Ancient Wisdom appears to be the most powerful macro force.

Trends connected to Ancient Wisdom:
Superfoods – Fermented – Natural Fats, Vinegar – Adaptogenic Herbs
Clean Labels – Healthy Sweetners – Sophisticated Flavors, Pulses & Beans

Consumers are no longer afraid of all fats. There is growing consumer interest in Natural plant-based fats like coconut and avocado as well as new animal based sources that provide nutrition like lard and duck fat. (Brand example: Epic Duck Fat)

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Adaptogenic Herbs: Adaptogens are a group of herbal ingredients used to improve adrenal health and help strengthen the body’s response to stress. There is strong interest in adaptogenic herb powered products, from supplements to food that will help consumers deal with stress management. (Brand example: Four Sigmatic Mushroom Hot Cacao Mix, with Chill Out Vibes & Reishi)

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Rehabilitation of Science
The role of food science is being reframed to embrace the spirit of natural products while addressing societal concerns – it’s a pivot that moves toward rebuilding consumer confidence and represents new alignment for science and the industry.

Trends connected to Rehabilitation of Science:
Green Chemistry – HPP (High Pressure Pasteurization) – Nourish Tech
Brain Health – Clean Energy – Probiotics – Beauty From Within

Green Chemistry: Growing fear of chemicals causing people to prefer imagery of aprons over lab coats. Some companies are figuring out how to put science to good use in ways that fits with consumer’s new preference for clean and more natural products. Consumers are ready for cleaner health & beauty. Brands meeting that challenge include: Scotch Naturals (salon quality nail polish, minus all of the endocrine disrupting ingredients) and a Trajectory favorite; Suki Skincare

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The Value(s) Shopper
Consumers are moving beyond price as their single purchasing filter as a new and complex world of values now influences purchasing decisions.

Trends connected to Value(s) Shopper macro trend:
Mission-Based Brands – Repurposed – Ingredients: Grass-Fed Dairy & Meat
Ethical & Sustainable Protein – Sourcing Local – Food As Medicine – B Corps

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Mission-Based Brands: Help consumers do good with their purchasing power. Conscious consumers can help others through the products they choose to buy. Stand for something more than the product. Building mission and purpose into the DNA of the company. Started, in great part, to achieve a mission.
(Brand example: SoapBox Soap)

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The Expo West Experience

The “experience” of Expo West is a blog post unto itself… or a conversation over a La COLOMBE Draft Latte (on-trend). The people and conversations were stimulating, smart and friendly. The products were very cool. In short, Expo West is educational and inspiring. Looking forward to Expo West 2017.

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Momentum is incredibly important.

It’s a force that not only represents actual performance, but signals what the future could be.

Momentum is often talked about as it relates to sports, politics and finance. Teams and individuals find their mojo and ride the wave of momentum. But so to with brands. It’s like everything they undertake is successful and effortless, as if they’re being carried along by a tailwind that propels them on to exceptional growth.

Momentum is also an assessment of the consumer’s forecast of the future and, as William J. McEwen (author of Married to the Brand) states, “they’re attracted to what is growing and are often apprehensive of that which is not.” So while a brand’s present marketplace position certainly matters, so does the direction (and perceived direction) in which it’s headed.

Some brands hold on to this actual and perceived momentum. They use it to help them deliver change, growth, competitive advantage and business success (think Kiehl’s, Under Armour, Red Bull, CVS, Lululemon and SoulCycle, to name a few). But most don’t. And when that happens, what actions do you take?

All solutions should start with an accurately defined problem. Followed by the correct diagnosis of the course of action that needs to be followed. In most situations, you can start with this simple framework. Questioning one of, or a combination of, these four things:

1. Product/Service. If the problem lies here, it’s because in some way what the consumer is being offered doesn’t work for them. Whether because of selection, performance, pricing, distribution or surrounding experience. You might not be able to create a quick fix. But it’s not something that can be ignored. Because without fixing this most basic of problems, your plans will always be compromised if you’re not bringing the right product, service or experience to the consumer.

2. Brand. If product/service doesn’t appear to be the issue, it’s time to examine the brand. Is there something about the brand and specifically people’s relationship with or beliefs about that brand that is holding it back. Does it have something relevant to share with customers? Is it differentiated from competition? Does it tap into emotions and create an instinctive attraction? Is consistency and reliability embedded within it? Don’t let good products and services be compromised by unhelpful brand associations that hold back business and customers.

3. Internal Engagement. Brands that break through today have a defining characteristic: a highly engaged leadership and employee base that believes in the brand, feels empowered in working toward a bigger mission, and has the tools and incentives to deliver. Today, your brand story needs to do so much more than guide your messages and communications; it should serve as a unifying idea to align the company and drive growth under a common mission.

This requires a clear understanding, articulation, and communication of your brand’s purpose. While every brand works to make a promise, a promise alone will not separate one brand from another in a marketplace where consumers are untrusting and management is constantly demanding budget justification. Having a defining purpose will

4. Activation. And finally if it’s not a product, brand or engagement problem it’s probably an activation problem. The communications and actions for the brand are not telling the right story, working in the right way or targeting the right people. But the problem might go beyond the communication and value you create. It could be the audience you are targeting, the channels that you are using or the “brief” at the root of your efforts. Whatever your requirement is, finding the right trigger is often at the heart of the matter.

How to create the momentum to thrive?

It’s typically the result of a powerful and dynamic process of ensuring the collective force of product, brand, people and activation. Combined with the energy, expertise and commitment to overcome challenges and achieve spectacular performance.

Moreover, momentum is about never standing still. It’s about evolving in ways that keep consumers interested and engaged to maintain the trajectory of your business; by anticipating and leading change rather than following it.

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Brand dynamism is one of the ten characteristics of great brand marketing. It’s the ability of a brand to continue to surprise and delight. To maintain people’s curiosity and to build anticipation about what’s coming next. To keep them engaged.

So once again, here’s a post about skincare brand Kiehl’s.

In this case, the brand’s created a multi-pronged partnership with Zoolander No. 2. The thread that ties them together is Derek Zoolander’s and Hansel’s attempt to stop a conspiracy to kill the world’s most beautiful people.

Being one of the world’s most loved skin care companies, Kiehl’s has jumped in to help the cause. They’ve created these two limited edition dual-branded sets:

The Ridiculously Youthful Collection

Kiehl's Youthful Collection

and The Blue Kiehl Men’s Collection

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And as reported in Forbes, they’ve also created the The Derek Zoolander Center for People Who Don’t Age Good (DZCFPWDAG), a state-of-the-art, anti-aging center in NYC.

This partnership should not only make you smile, but should probably cause you, as a brand marketer, to be more than just a tad envious.

Here are four good reasons why:

1. Brand actions mean more than words. In today’s totally transparent and scrutinizing world, paid communication can only take you so far. Tomorrow’s successful brands will be built not by advertising, but by actions. By creating platforms that earn attention, create shared value and forge deeper relationships.

2. There’s a platform for every brand. For brands challenged with finding new ways to stand out in a saturated marketplace, promotional co-marketing offers an effective medium that every brand marketer across any category – including healthcare which is one of our three vertical focuses – should explore.

3. Entertainment value builds brand value. We’re all time-starved consumers. Drowning in brands seeking our attention. Entertainment is an effective reward. Helping to create an instinctive attraction that goes beyond rational reasons for purchase. And it’s a reward that tends to keep on giving by way of pass-along sharing.

4. Think across time and touch points. Today’s consumers don’t slide down the traditional purchase funnel. Their journey is full of twists and turns, proactively researching, conversing, sharing and comparing, prior to making a purchase decision. And brands should be everywhere their prospective customers are along their total journey, in order to pull larger numbers of people towards them.

Dynamism is powerful. It keeps your brand ahead of the game and keeps consumers interested and engaged (and also ahead of the game). But maintaining this momentum while remaining true to the characteristics of your brand can often be a challenge. In this case, helping the cause of keeping the world beautiful, Kiehl’s is spot on.

Looking to create more momentum for your brand? Contact Rick Zaniboni at Trajectory.

Follow these links if you missed any previous posts about Kiehl’s brand success:

Why Kiehl’s brand mojo matters after 160+ years in business
How Kiehl’s gets customers to sell for them
10 things healthcare marketing can learn from Kiehl’s

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Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 11.30.59 AMClose your eyes. Picture yourself, not feeling well, browsing the “remedies” aisle of your drug store.  As if you don’t feel bad enough already, do you now feel worse?

Help Remedies (whose URL is; but temporarily down pending a sale to another owner) can ease your pain. In contrast to shelves full of confusing packaging and obscure jargon, they’re a “simple” healthcare products company that sells an assortment of single-ingredient over-the-counter medications.

I’ve meant to write about the company for some time now. Not only because we specialize in healthcare and personal care, but because Help is a role model for brilliant healthcare branding. Consider how the strategic and tactical elements below come together to create a compelling, seamless, brilliant brand experience:

1. Declaration: they lead front and center with a simple, human and approachable purpose that transcends the functionality of their products. No talk of what goes into their products, the efficacy of their products, or the technology behind their products. Rather, a refreshingly simple statement of what they (and their target audience) stand for, and stand against. You’d expect this from a company that goes by the very simplistic name of Help® Remedies – and they deliver.

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2. Differentiation: There’s no mistaking this brand for others. Because they’re unlike any other OTC brand in the marketplace. Everything they do is simple and less. And it’s not just a point of difference, but a point of difference that really matters to their customers. From their simple corporate brand name, simple packaging, simple product names, simple single-dosage product, simple and sometimes “quirky” messaging, through to their clean and intuitive website and distribution strategy (a mix of traditional retail and hotels and bars [where their audiences are]) – this brand is tight in its execution.

3. Know-How: Claims are easy to make. Backing them up is tougher. But our System 2 brain (that operates consciously to rationalize our System 1 choices) requires proof that a particular brand knows what it’s doing. Know-how can be earned in different ways, and will take different forms depending on the category. For Help, it’s the rational payoff of why “Less” is more and is the best possible solution for its target customer’s needs. Less drugs, dyes, confusion, waste…in the language of their customers.

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4. Emotional Pull: Help understands its customers. The brand creates an instinctive attraction that goes beyond considered, rational reasons for purchase through its simple, genuine, quirky, no bull approach. Beyond selling an OTC product, they’re selling their viewpoint on the category.

5. Alignment: all brand touch points deliver a consistent look, messaging and emotion. Which means everything contributes to building intended brand meaning. And this alignment also maximizes value across all marketing.

6. Shoppability: doesn’t get much easier, whether shopping one product or shopping across the portfolio of single symptom products. In a category fraught with too many product variations, Help eases the pain of product selection.
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7. Dynamism: the brand doesn’t rest on its laurels. It continues to surprise and delight its audiences, to keep them interested and engaged. Consider the different mock problems on their website like “help, I am lonely” or the pop-up “help shop” that opened for a time in the nation’s capital…

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You might now be wondering about sales of Help. Truth is, they’ll never be able to compete with the likes of a Johnson & Johnson. But that’s not their strategy. They’re targeting a younger consumer who is attracted to stripped down, more human, more hip and a touch of humor. For this audience, their branding is right on the mark.

Brilliant branding not only powers your business today, but provides the momentum to take today’s success forward into the future. It starts by differentiating your brand by critically and imaginatively finding the sweet spot of:

1. Your brand’s belief and purpose
2. Your best potential audience(s) attitudes, needs and behaviors
3. Competitive points of parity and points of difference
4. Your organizational culture and strengths

It then comes down to pushing, pulling and aligning the seven characteristics above.

To pull more people towards your brand, contact Rick Zaniboni at Trajectory.

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