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by Gerald Carrafiello, Healthy Lifestyle Practice Group Leader, The Gate

We're three weeks into the New Year, and most of us already have discarded or forgotten our New Year's resolutions.  But one that we as marketers should not forget is to help exhausted consumers strike the right balance between a healthy lifestyle and one that is slightly more hedonistic.

At one end of the spectrum are consumers that eat to live, not live to eat- and don't care if their food tastes like cardboard as long as it fuels them for their next workout. At the polar opposite end are those who make choices based on what makes them happy and rarely get off the couch. The world is not so conveniently divided between black and white. In fact, the majority of consumers reside in the middle. They seek a reasonable balance in their daily lives. One that is attentive to healthy living but one that also rewards the rigors of everyday life with a little bit of pleasure.

Marketers typically do not speak to this majority. To help consumers, we need to step back and ask ourselves, where on the healthy lifestyle continuum does my brand realistically reside? If your product is at either extreme (health fanatic or couch potato), focus your message exclusively to that target. Adding a “pleasure” message to a healthy product or attribute to a pleasure product makes you seen inauthentic and alienates and confuses your perfect customer.

If your brand resides in the middle, your message should include a healthy and a pleasure reason to choose.

Consumers approach their product choices differently depending on where they reside on the continuum. Health first consumers make decisions using rational criteria and therefore, focus on ingredients, how it was made or how difficult it is if a physical activity. They enjoy the process of learning about healthy living. Advertising claims to this knowledgeable group needs to be 100% accurate. Messages touting taste ("it couldn't be healthy"), or a simple exercise regiment (it's not hard enough" may raise suspicions about the products health credentials. According to the American Time Use Survey only 5% of all Americans fall into this category on a consistent basis.

On the other hand, pleasure first consumers (four times the size of health first and totals about 20% of all Americans according to the same survey) make decisions based on taste, satisfaction and emotional criteria ("I feel better now that I have visited the gym.") Advertising to this group should focus on the real or emotional pleasure it imparts. To help them with their lifestyle balance, copy should also include a claim, which eliminates any potential reason why they should not use your product.

For instance, my favorite potato chip brand just added a “no trans fat” claim to their package. While that did not detract from my pleasure, and it certainly did not make me believe that potato chips are good for me, emotionally it gave me permission to indulge.

The moderates are ingredient, how-it-is-made-and-how-difficult-it-is conscious but unlike the health first fanatics, do not make decisions exclusively on these criteria. They trust the product brand and therefore, delegate or abdicate their decision to the brand: “I know that they are on it so I don’t have to be.”

There are a number of categories and brands that speaking to the majority of consumers that want to enjoy life and at the same time, try to be healthy.

The recent French versus Greek yogurt wars are good examples. For years, brands like Dannon and Yoplait led the charge. Now bursting on the scene are the Greek Yogurts: Fage, Chobani and Fage. All have upped the ante, offering consumers the perfect balance of health and pleasure. Consumers are gobbling up creative touting everything from sourcing from local farms to the protein content to new packaging to wholesome, delicious, new flavors.

Welch’s used Food Network personality/food expert Alton Brown to stress the scientifically-demonstrated antioxidant benefits of the polyphenols in Concord grapes. While successful among those on the health side of the continuum, moderate consumers in the middle tuned-out. The message was too scientific. It wasn’t until Welch’s added a promise of “pleasure” to its copy did they successfully attract a broader audience.

Because of their sheer numbers, the largest potential source of business –about 75% of the adult population- resides in the middle between the two extremes: the majority of us wants to have dessert, and is willing to walk to the restaurant to earn it. Brands that understand this struggle, where they stand on the continuum and offer help will win the largest share of the … pie.

This is one New Year’s Resolution I plan to keep as a marketer.

Looking to strike the right balance in your business in a way that builds sales and profits?  Contact Gerald Carrafiello at The Gate Worldwide at 212 508-3420 or Gerald.carrafiello@thegateworldwide.com .

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