As in any relationship, you’re only as strong as your significant other.

No different when it comes to your health brands and customers. Your organization’s, product or service brand energy is directly proportional to that of your customers. Because your brand can only grow stronger if your customers do. It’s very much a symbiotic relationship.

In effect, customers are your brand’s “strategic brand partners.” You link your future to theirs, through the value that your brand delivers. The more they advance, the more you advance. Side note, this is why it’s so important to periodically take the pulse or your customers – their lives, how they view the category and your offerings, where and how you fit and how they feel about you.

Remember that your future’s are intertwined. Elevate your customers and you’ll elevate your brand. Ensure that your must do’s equal their needs. Your differentiators equal their wants. And that your true distinguishers equal their most important aspirations.

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Where are the trailblazers in mobile health heading? Peer-to-peer health care: wherein engaged patients and caregivers take an active role in tracking and sharing what they have learned.

Here is Susannah Fox’s (Pew Internet Project) presentation from the recent What Really Works Mobile Health conference at Stanford University. She discussed what people are really doing online – “how they are gathering, sharing and creating health information and what it means now that a majority of adults have on-the-go internet access.”

Some facts from her presentation:

• Six in ten US adults gather health info online
• 59% go online wirelessly, with a laptop, mobile device or tablet
• 48% of wireless users look online for information about doctors or other health professionals, compared with 31% of internet users who do not have mobile access

And two important (not yet mainstream but growing) trends:

• the “mobile difference” – give someone a smart phone and they become more social, likely to share and contribute
• the “diagnosis difference” – having a chronic disease significantly increases an internet user’s likelihood to say they both contribute and consume user-generated content related to health. Learning from each other, not just from institutions.

Does this ring true for you? How much have you personally connected with others, shared and contributed as it relates to health conditions?

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I’m a big fan of Chobani yogurt. I’m at least a one a day guy, and particularly fond of pomegranate and pineapple.

Needless to say, the brands performance (in brand energy terms) is explosive. Launched in 2007, it’s already the #2 yogurt brand in the US, with plans to become #1 very soon (thereby passing Yoplait). And while Chobani didn’t start the Greek yogurt trend, it grew so quickly because it truly capitalized on this appeal (coinciding with the healthy “Greek” diet). By focusing and really standing for something, they stood out in a very crowded yogurt case.

But there’s another energy source behind the brand’s success. The power of energized employees and fans. In just four years, the number of employees has gone from five to 300. And word-of-mouth among friends, family and Chobani-loving fans has been (up until lately) the company’s biggest marketing tool.

Watch this video, learn about their “secret ingredient” and you’ll see what I mean. The collective energy of everyone who works at Chobani is powerful. And their product (and explosive success) is the embodiment and expression of this energy.

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I found these six great tips from Drew Boyd at Innovation in Practice. They’ll help you maximize your limited time, money and human resources around the most productive innovation initiatives (which can be applied to any product or service).

Here are the six tips, a quick explanation and an accompanying example (Drew has others in his post):

1. Your value drivers: What activities across your business model create the most value? I think of innocent, whose drinks are always completely pure, fresh and unadulterated.

2. Your core competency: What skill sets create strategic assets; and sustainable competitive advantage? Consider PatientsLikeMe, whose health data-sharing platform lets patients share their real-world health experiences to help themselves, other patients like them and organizations that focus on their conditions.

3. Your potential acquisitions: Actually using innovation methods ahead of the deal-making to clarify and enhance valuation. What is Microsoft contemplating as they consider acquiring Skype?

4. Your customer’s processes: Map the customer experience with your product or service; and then reinvent how they seek and derive value. Consider health care provider Carena, which added ultra-convenience to their services menu.

5. Your brand reputation: What are you most known for in the industry and in the minds of your customer; which you can then use to strengthen and reinforce brand loyalty. Consider Mayo Clinic’s partnership with DoApps.

6. Your strategic capabilities: How does your company win in the marketplace? What is its “source of authority?” Consider lululemon, which stands apart from all other like retailers, because it’s much more than just a retail brand. I’ve written why, here.

Once again, you can read Drew’s complete post here.

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4 in 10 consumers go out of their way to talk about the brands they like –– with Gen-X (ages 30-49) and higher income groups most influencing brand preference.

Crowd Science’s latest JustAsk! survey (summary chart above) provides demographic & psychographic insights about how consumers feel about the brands they use, their likelihood to try new brands, and their propensity to stick with or recommend brands to others.

Key findings are as follows:

Gen-X are most likely to influence brand opinion: Those 30-49 most share brand opinions, with 50% providing recommendations and sharing preferences with people they know, compared to 42% of those under thirty and 40% over fifty.

As are consumers with higher incomes: 47% earning more than $50k a year agree they often tell friends and family about brands they like or dislike — 5% higher than those earning less than $50k. 28% of those with incomes of more than $100k agreed with the statement “People regularly ask my opinion about brands”, 10% higher than those who earn less than $50k, and 5% less than those earning $50k–$90k.

Most brand loyal are Gen-X: 38% of survey participants say they stick with a brand once they find one they like, consistent across males and females. However, brand loyalty differs across age groups, with brand loyalty highest among those 30-49 (42% agreeing “when I find a brand I like, I stick with it”). Brand loyalty is lowest for those under 30, with 33% indicating they would stick to a brand they like, as compared to 38% for those over fifty. Furthermore, 24% of those under thirty report that “they always like to try different brands” compared with just 15% of those thirty years and older.

Consumer brand affinity: is more common among males in the study, with greater numbers agreeing they are willing to pay more for a brand they trust, or that they only buy brand name products when they shop: 13% of males agreed they only buy brand name products and services, compared to just 8% of females.

Personal connection: Consumers with high affinity for a particular brand often demonstrate a personal connection to them. 16% of those surveyed agreed that “the brands I use say a lot about who I am”, with males slightly more likely to agree compared to females (17% male vs. 15% female).

Once again, the study write-up can be found here.

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I’ve written in previous posts about the integration of health into hotel stays (Westin and New Balance).

Disney’s first specialty offering, brand-new health and wellness suites, will debut this fall at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. These suites will feature 100 percent cotton sheets, bamboo floors and non-allergenic wrapped mattresses, along with bathrooms that will include tea tree oils and rainwater showers for a relaxing, spa-like experience.

In addition, guests will also be able to indulge in seasonal and organic fresh foods at the concierge lounge, or enjoy a yoga session or a relaxing spa treatment at the resort’s newly renovated wellness studio. Finally, guests will also have the option of having cardio fitness equipment brought right to their rooms.

Disney’s core brand idea (or DNA, mantra, essence…) is family fun entertainment. More than a slogan, these three words should serve as a touchstone for business and brand decision-making. So, is integrating health into the Disney experience consonant with this brand idea? Share your thoughts.

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The idea was to have the store be a community hub where people could learn and discuss the physical aspects of healthy living from yoga and diet to running and cycling as well as the mental aspects of living a powerful life of possibilities.

This is how Chip Wilson, founder of international retail phenomenon lululemon, describes his first store, which he opened in 1998 in Vancouver BC. He goes on to say that “unfortunately for this concept, the store became so busy that it was impossible to help the customer in this way in addition to selling the product.”

There’s a great lesson to take away here about lululemon, which underscores their success: while their business might be selling yoga-related apparel, the business of their brand is about enlightening, creating community and enriching people’s lives. Here are just a few reinforcements:

1. Their mission is creating components for people to live a longer, healthier, more fun life.

2. Their “public-facing” manifesto, which is just as much about their customers as it is about them.

3. Yoga serving as the vehicle to create community, happiness, energy and change. Every week, lululemon stores and showrooms push their products aside, unroll yoga mats and turn their spaces into instant yoga studios. Classes are complimentary and lead by instructors from local community studios.

4. Helping employees and their customer community with goal setting, which is a big part of lululemon culture. Every employee is encouraged to set personal, health and career goals and is given goal setting training. They provide this framework (below) and this downloadable worksheet on their site.

I really like what lululemon stands for. Obviously, so do many others given their dramatic growth. It’s a high-energy brand with a strong point-of-view, that creates interest and excitement, is experiential, participatory and responsive and provides life-enriching value in ways that others do not.

What’s your pov?

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You can create health brand energy, and new customer value, in many different ways.

You can do things instead of saying things. Empower people rather than control them. Engage them in dialogue instead of delivering a monologue. Create a community rather than focus on transactions.

Easy enough to say this, but you still need inspiration and fresh insights to make it happen. And there are many places to look.

Here are seven “ignition starters” (beyond the obvious one of Customer Insights) to help you see things differently and create new value for your customers and your organization:

1. Market Insights
2. Purchase & Experience Insights
3. Usage & Experience Insights
4. Brand Idea Insights
5. Cultural Insights
6. Future Insights
7. Outside Category/Role Model Insights

Are there others to add to this list?

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