No one can deny that marketers have made great strides in recent years accepting more realistic depictions of women instead of idealizing them. But, we still have a ways to go in the health and wellness industry. We're still constantly being told how to act, eat and feel, and it's hindering the very pillars of the industry.
Here are some common mistakes brands make when talking to female consumers about their health, diets and body issues:
1. Preaching vs. conversing. Women don't want to be preached to about their health and wellness. All women's health and body issues differ, so marketers need to stop treating us all the same, and instead have conversations with us about various solutions.
Always is a great brand to look to here -- they've done a brilliant job of starting conversations with women about the battle to keep self confidence high during puberty and beyond. Always' #LikeAGirl campaign shows numerous women discussing the negative impact of stereotypes, and how the implied insult of doing something "like a girl" can bruise self confidence and mental wellness. Instead of preaching to women about issues around puberty as if they all have the same experience, Always uses conversations with various young women to empower them and address all possible outcomes.
2. Making it a competition. For the everyday consumer, achieving a feeling of balance and better health isn't a game you win or lose, it's a series of choices and actions that must be worked on day by day. And yet, so much of the marketing we see around health and fitness products seems to draw from the competitive world of sports. The journey toward better health shouldn't feel like an all-or-nothing game -- or worse, a competition with other women.
Marketers can draw inspiration from FCB Inferno's "This Girl Can" campaign for Sport England. The campaign has inspired over 2.8 million women to be more active in the year since its launch by showcasing camaraderie and kick-ass women who will stop at nothing to reach their goals. Instead of highlighting the 'thrill' (and fear) of competition, brands should instead embrace the positive side of sports, namely its ability to build community and friendships -- whether they're sponsoring programs in which women can work together to improve their health and wellness, or leveraging technology like mobile apps that can guide them toward better choices.
3. Outdated notions. It's time for brands to take the next step in dispelling the idea that there is a "good" and a "bad" body type, or that "being healthy" is synonymous with "losing weight." Brands can, and should, stand out by moving away from thinness and dieting as the primary markers of a healthy lifestyle. They can redefine the conversation by becoming more inclusive, celebrating all body types, offering realistic ways that these bodies can be healthier, and embracing the idea that "well" is the new skinny.
4. Confusing the issue with meaningless claims. Take a walk through the grocery aisles and you'll see all sorts of labels (on Snapple, Chobani, Nature Valley, etc.) claiming to be "all natural," "no sugar added," and "light," but what weight do these terms carry when the FDA doesn't back them up … and almost all brands are touting themselves as "healthful?" These phrases have not only become meaningless, but are misleading as well -- especially when compared to terms like "non-GMO," which must be backed and approved by the FDA. Marketers must realize that using these terms won't help distinguish their products on the shelf.
Creative agency Humanaut created a campaign for Only Organic that aims to help consumers understand the difference between products labeled "organic" and those labeled "natural." The messages throughout the campaign that "natural doesn't mean natural" and "only organic means no-GMO's, no toxic pesticides and no growth hormones or antibiotics," show just how over-used and misleading these terms have become.
5. Missing the opportunity to teach. Traditional advertising is just one piece of the puzzle for marketers in the health and wellness space -- the way to drive true engagement is through education. There is an explosion of health information out there right now, and consumers know they can't trust most of it. That leaves a big opportunity for established brands to use their expertise to teach consumers the way to a healthier lifestyle through branded content and sponsored events. Show consumers that you're about more than selling, and are also deeply committed to supporting their customers in their wellness efforts.
Athletic retailer Lululemon is a brilliant example. In addition to its traditional advertising efforts, it has established an ambassador program that supports a community of athletes and inspirational people who harness passion to motivate their communities. Lululemon also offers festivals and retreats around the world and classes that encourage people to sweat it out with them. They go above and beyond just pushing product, and are dedicated to supporting the wellness movement.