Do you ever get a warm, fuzzy feeling when thinking about your favorite brands? You’re not alone. As a brand strategy and activation firm focused on healthcare, personal care, wellness and lifestyle, our team members are brand obsessed.

From a personal story that you’re drawn to, to packaging that simply and beautifully attracts, to a lifestyle brand that creates a vibrant and interactive community within its users, we can’t get enough of our favorite brands. Over our next few posts, we will share our insight on what makes them so great. This week, Trajectory’s President, Eric Brody, lists five of his favs.

Eric Brody, Trajectory President

In general, I’m attracted to brands that have a strong point-of-view and Eric_Brodythat have a bigger story that transcends their immediate category. I also appreciate brands that have more of a human versus institutional face, that take a stand (whether for or against a prevailing belief), that have carved out their own unique path, and whose execution (down to the last detail) reinforces their uniqueness.  Here are five within our space that come to mind:

1. LuluLemon

trajectory_favorite brand_lululemonTruth be told, at one point, they really let me down. I wanted to enlist their support for an incredibly important cause, which aligned perfectly with their reason for being, but they made it impossible to ever speak to a real decision-maker. It would have been a perfect match, which would have legs for years to come. But…I’m over it. I relate to their company story, and everything that flows from it. From their manifesto, to their aesthetic, their stores, their apparel (which I wear), their people, their service, their take-away bags. Everything about the brand is very tight.

2. Arnold Palmer

tracjectory_favorite brand_arnold palmerWho I view as a lifestyle brand. And who we had the incredible up close and personal pleasure to do global brand strategy and design work for. It’s hard to imagine a life filled with even a fraction of his accomplishments. But for all he’s achieved, he’s the most humble and gracious of men. He truly could be the guy next door. When you meet him and spend time with him, it very quickly becomes apparent why Arnie’s Army stormed the course behind him.

It’s a shame, however, that younger generations aren’t fully aware of all of his accomplishments. Case in point, one of our summer interns a few years ago couldn’t believe that we were working with “the tea guy.”

3. Suki Skincare

You might not be familiar with this hard-working line of skincare products, named after the founder, Suki Kramer. Beyond the fact that all of the products are 100% pure formulas that are clinically proven effective in 3rd party trials (outperforming letrajectory_favorite brand_sukiskincareading synthetic products), Suki (also the formulator) is a force of nature. Given her backstory, she’s incredibly passionate in her mission to empower women to feel beautiful and strong in their own skin, and unstoppable in her desire to unearth the real truths in the skincare category. By the way, her signature and best-selling product – Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser – will make you feel cleaner than you ever have before.


4. Nike & Adidas

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I’m a jock. I played soccer in college, and find my way to the golf course and tennis court as much as I possibly can. In the winter, I suit up and hit the streets on a bike when they’re not snowed or iced over. So needless to say, these two brands strike a real emotional chord with me. Though they’re two of the largest companies in the world, I see myself in the very human stories they tell. And I want to be a part of them. I also really appreciate how they tell their stories –full of depth, color, graphics and excitement.

5. Cliff Bar

trajectory_favorite brands_clifbarI should own stock in the company. Their energy bars are with me whether I’m on the golf course, tennis court, taking a bike ride or taking a long run or walk (nothing as exciting as this shot as I don’t like heights).  Their story is simple, believable, and a bit playful. Not too much. Not too little.  Just like their branding and how it’s executed. Shows you that you don’t need a big budget to make a big impact.

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adventure lifestyle brand

How can you get away from it all, while still being connected?

Tech has taken over. Preparing for a hike (like I did this past weekend), you’re more likely to see someone glued to their phone, than studying a map of a trail. In a world where we rely on smartphones, wearable tech, and the ubiquitous presence of Wi-Fi, an interesting brand trend has begun to take hold.

Lifestyle brands that urge millennials to stray from the well-worn path (while still being connected) have become huge. Outdoor brands like Poler Stuff, Herschel Supply, and Best Made Co. are creating a micro culture of 20 and 30 something’s who want to align themselves with a more adventurous and healthy lifestyle, lived outdoors, with all the right gear.

adventure brands

Taking consumers offline (sort of), and outdoors, Poler Stuff, based in the uber trendy Portland, Oregon, has taken advantage of an emerging niche in millennial culture, and has utilized Instagram as a way to bring their brand into the larger arena of a lifestyle movement. The most interesting thing that Poler has accomplished as a brand is not their wearable knapsack, but the community they have created within the larger community of social media.

adventure brand poler

Not only are the photos that Poler posts on Instagram averaging 6k likes apiece, but customers and brand enthusiasts are stepping up in droves to promote their love of the brand. Poler’s hashtag #campvibes has over 56k photos on Instagram alone. Their #adventuremobile hashtag is rapidly approaching 100k. With their well-curated social network, Poler has found a way to keep their target audience engaged—whether at home, on the beach, or at the edge of a mountain (literally).

adventure brand poler stuff

As the ever evolving over reach of Social Media extends, brands need to stay on their toes: anticipating emerging trends, and learning to best use these platforms in ways that are genuine to their target audience’s lives. Poler is a great example to marketers of knowing your demographic, and creating a space where customers can communicate with one another, by way of  the brand itself. It’s the type of interaction that’s powerful, meaningful and creates a win-win for both customers and brand.


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Experts describe a future in which the chronically ill have their bodies minutely and continuously monitored by wearable devices. But that’s not the future. That’s today.

This article on Motley Fool – Could Fitbit’s Wearables Transform Healthcare – is written on the heels of Fitbit’s successful IPO. While this is due to the company’s personal fitness tracking success, a bigger $2.6 trillion healthcare market potentially awaits.

According to IMS Research, the market for wearable medical devices is projected to account for at least half of all wearable technology sales by 2016. And there are instances mentioned in the article where this is already the case.

But another important implication is from a brand-building perspective. For health system and hospital marketers, Wearables is yet another non-traditional segment (like pharmacies turned health providers) encroaching upon your traditional provider turf. And given this, it impacts how consumers think about the healthcare category as a whole.

The upshot is that the consumer healthcare lens has widened beyond your narrow view. For health system and hospital marketers, this means…

• thinking more expansively about your healthcare brand and its potential role in the life of a customer (like CVS and Apple)

• examining how to create new forms of value given that your customers (formerly known as patients) have more resources and choices than ever before (like Patients Like Me)

• adapting a more expansive approach to brand engagement that marries products, services, experiences and communications (like Mayo Clinic)

It’s important to remember that it’s not brand marketing that your sharing, but rather brand relevance and meaning. And in this transformative period for healthcare, things just don’t work the way they used to.


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Editor Bill Santamour’s column in May 2015 Hospitals & Health Networks magazine – The 3 C’s of Health Care Today – refers to collaboration, coordination and continuum — which he says sums up one big emerging health care theme.

It’s the idea that much of healthcare today takes place beyond a hospital’s four walls, so everybody involved in promoting individual and community health must cooperate more than they have in the past.

But I’d add a fourth C to this list. Because to get the most out of these changes – providers must be able to make the necessary connection with current customers and prospects, healthcare professionals, and the communities they serve. To do this, they must invest in, and leverage, one of their most important business assets: their hospital brand.

As the healthcare business model continues to evolve, and as new consumer-oriented competitors threaten traditional hospital and health system turf, the way hospitals brand themselves must evolve as well. Investments in collaboration, coordination and continuum – and the rationale behind them – must be communicated as part of an overall hospital brand that ties them together and conveys the most meaningful benefits to each of its constituent groups.

Ultimately, it’s the combination of these “4C’s” that will help you attract new customers, highly skilled healthcare professionals, and position you to become the provider of choice within your region.

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Here’s a good article for healthcare marketers on MediaPost’s Marketing:health – The Art And Science of Effective Work. While it’s primarily speaking to pharmaceutical marketers, it rings just as true for health system and hospital marketers.

The context of the article is the talk by Chuck Porter (chief strategist at MDC Partners) on creativity at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival last year. But the more important point by Graham Mills, a member of the 2015 North American Final Round Health Effie Awards Jury, is that people want more than advertising from brands; they want a valid reason to let brands into their lives.

In order to do this, marketers need to go beyond product-centric advertising to positioning marketing as a service that answers both the emotional and practical needs of the consumer. Selling product features is not enough to prove value.

We refer to this as creating marketing that matters. Marketing that in and of itself can make a difference in people’s lives (i.e. “marketing as a service”). Marketing that goes beyond the still too typical health system and hospital advertising that touts latest technology (until tomorrow), number of awards (which are not an important driver in decision-making) and is written in insider hospital-centric language.

This need is intensified given the shifting landscape of consumer and technology brands like CVS, Apple and Teladoc (among hundreds of others) fighting for a piece of the traditional healthcare pie. Brands who’ve cultivated consumer relationships in ways that health system and hospitals have not.

In this environment, traditional health system and hospital marketers must re-evaluate their marketing through a new lens of possibility. Because the interrelationship between people’s needs (people who you used to refer to as your patients) and the new benefits that are offered up to them by the new “health” companies and brands are where the real “maas” opportunities lie.

By understanding the emotional payoff that people will feel as a result of their ideal “health” experience (which now could be CVS, Apple or Teladoc), you can then begin to identify what’s driving their choice and the direction your marketing should be heading. Clearly, this is beyond communicating the “functional benefit of your traditional healthcare services.”

Robin Wight, co-founder of WCRS in London, mentions in the article about interrogating a product until it confesses to its strength and that strength is not always a product attribute. That underlying strength for health systems and hospitals is an emotional end benefit far beyond the immediate functional fix. And owning this emotional end benefit territory provides a more robust platform to keep you ahead of constantly evolving market changes, consumer needs and competitive activity.

But in order for the relationship with a brand to work, as with any relationship, it must be based on exchange of something of value. One of these “exchanges” should be going beyond product-centric advertising to positioning marketing as a service that answers both the emotional and practical needs of the consumer.



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Working across the related categories of healthcare, personal care, wellness and lifestyle — we bring an informed and wider lens view of the world that helps our clients to see things they don’t currently see, believe in what’s possible and act in new ways.

As hospitals and health care systems continue to make the pivot from b2b to b2c, they’re faced with challenging their own status quo and having to create new forms of value for a forever changed breed of health care consumer.

So what can healthcare leaders and healthcare marketers learn from Kiehl’s? They’re a wonderful example of a company that has carved out its own path to greatness. And in today’s healthcare environment, where the traditional business model is increasingly challenged and consumers wield increasing power, this is a very important idea.

Kiehl’s is just about 165 years old, and the brand is still going strong. Here are ten reasons why (which healthcare leaders and marketers should take note of):

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1. Story. The brand has a great back story – starting with its name Kiehl’s Since 1851 – as an apothecary business in NYC’s lower East Side owned and managed over four generations as a family business (and now owned by L’Oreal). But their story continues to genuinely evolve and capture the imagination of new generations of audiences. Many other skin care brands have a celebrated past. But I’m not sure any are as compelling or as unconventional as Kiehl’s.

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2. Belief. There aren’t too many people who boast about ingredients and physical product benefits. But they do talk about Kiehl’s greater sense of purpose – brought to life through its approach to products, distinguishing community-based retail experience and socially-driven activities.

3. Behavior. Everything Kiehl’s does, every experience they create across the end-to-end customer journey, supports and enhances their story and is executed with brilliance.

4. Products and Packaging. True to its heritage, Kiehl’s uses the very best naturally-derived ingredients – based on herbal and pharmaceutical formulas. Packaging also reflects the brand’s apothecary roots – a homemade look that feels like they are individually made in the back of the store, with detailed descriptions about ingredients, benefits and directions for use.

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5. Retail Experience. Even though the brand now has 500-plus stores around the world, the Kiehl’s brand team recreates the look and feel of the original New York boutique wherever you find the brand.

Why would Kiehl’s have a vintage motorcycle in their store? Because it’s core to the story and the brand’s visual expression. The trademark vintage Ducati motorcycle is there because the founder liked the brand. Just another detail that differentiates Kiehl’s from all other skin care businesses.

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The brand also maintains its close ties with the medical community from which it was born. As such, Mr. Bones (the skeleton you see in every store) serves to pay homage to the industry.

6. Word-of-Mouth. L’Oreal has faithfully adhered to the founding family approach of not advertising the Kiehl’s brand. For Kiehl’s, it’s all about the ‘pull’ of word-of-mouth. Creating beautiful interesting stores, wonderful products and living its philosophy of purpose beyond profit compels customers to do their advertising for them as one by one they share Kiehl’s with their friends.

7. Sampling. Kiehl’s diehards know one of the most fun things about going to Kiehl’s is snapping up all the samples. Each year they distribute over 40 million samples from their range of 300+ products. When you leave with your purchase, you’ll also be going home with at least three trial size samples to introduce you to another element of their range (knowing you’ll also spread the word to your friends).

8. Benevolence. Kiehl’s just doesn’t give to multiple causes, it participates. And there’s a difference (for today’s more discerning customers) between just writing the check and demonstrating your commitment.

Community service is in the DNA of the brand. It dates back to WWI when John Kiehl’s donated cream to soldiers for their dry, chapped hands. Kiehl’s Gives is the name of their global CSI initiatives worldwide, and their focus is threefold: HIV AIDS, children’s causes
and environmental issues.

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9. Bonding. Beyond customers interacting with Keihl’s, the brand is a platform for its advocates to share with one another – through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

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10. Bold. The brand continues to surprise and delight, by adding new collections, addressing new concerns, and delivering on its mission “to improve in some way the quality of the community…making for better citizens, better firms, and better communities.”

No matter how the healthcare landscape evolves, it will greatly be shaped by the rise of consumerism. And in this environment, brand has a value and resonance that is quite meaningful. Which means healthcare leaders and their teams must be able to see the world through a new lens of possibility. The ability to see the world like Kiehl’s.





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In an earlier post about mobile and the healthcare brand experience, we wondered whether at some point in the future, customers might have a mobile-only relationship with a hospital or healthcare system. Consider too that mobile isn’t just another channel, it’s digital, search and social, all wrapped into one.

Here, in a recent Modern Healthcare interview, Bruce Broussard, CEO of Ky.-based Humana talks about the mobile evolution they’re undertaking. He states that mobile devices play a key part in engaging with the patient around a health outcome, being able to service them and give them the transparency of choice, or the ability for physicians to make a decision about care on the fly with a mobile device.

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that healthcare customers are increasingly mobile. Or the inevitability of a mobile-first customer journey. For the hospitals and healthcare systems that respond first, the prize should be a tri-fecta of greater customer engagement, satisfaction and advocacy.

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I came across anti-aging skincare brand Verso while doing some “role-modeling” research for brands that simplify the shopping experience.

It’s a luxury Swedish skincare brand made with a high-dose nonprescription vitamin A derivative that claims to be eight times more effective than the average product on the market and is safe enough to use during the day.

But beyond its attributes and functional benefits, what makes Verso stand out in a sea of skincare brand alternatives is its simplicity. It’s straightforward and minimalist style shines through in everything the brand says and does. Starting with its story…

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Extending to its shopability and packaging…

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Website experience…

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Brand film…

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and even through to things like company policy.

In a world that demands so much of our time, we all crave a bit of simplicity now and then. Can’t you actually feel how nice it is to be able to make a choice without being deluged with alternative products and confusing and seemingly overlapping claims.

Verso represents an unexpected and delightful brand experience. It’s one that shifts power to the consumer. Removes the typical buyer pain. And importantly, saves you time.  I don’t know enough about the business to say whether the resultant financial rewards are/will follow. But I imagine they will.

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