By Dave McCaughan & Faiyaz Ahmed
It’s a time when we eat a bit better, watch our weight and temperature and other vital signs with more diligence, rethink our bad habits and try again to promote good ones. We are drawn to FB posts about people coping and what they are doing right, and look out for news about what others have done wrong that has not worked. We seek out some more ways to stay calm, be healthy, maybe more spiritual.
We don’t mean to be cynical but in reality, our headline does read two ways and we mean them both. The first half of 2020 has meant learning new habits that have forced us to take on new attitudes and actions about our health and those are also opportunities for businesses to offer new ideas and services to people looking for new hope and health. From learning to spend all day at home and with that the stresses and benefits of working from home. Understanding what social distancing means. Re-learning or taking up home cooking in a way we have not seen for generations. All of these activities and many more have embedded themselves in people’s lives and they are looking for help in making all this seem better. Sounds like a great place for marketers to be in to make a difference.
Cleanliness, hygiene, diet, exercise, health and wellness.
The one thing that COVID-19 has really taught us is that all of the above matter more than we can imagine and for many, many people in 2020 has been a year of health and wellness rediscovery.
It has also been a year when companies, brands, individuals with an interest in marketing in those areas have been forced to rethink. Recently we brought together two good friends and experts in health marketing, Aftab Kurshid and Steve Sowerby, in one of our continuing series of Lead Talks to discuss health and wellness marketing during and beyond COVID-19. Lead Talk is a series of “after dinner” roundtables where Marketing Futures brings together marketing leaders in Bangladesh and around the world to informally discuss the marketing issues of our times.
Here are a few of the valuable lessons we picked up :
The need to think holistically about health
Is COVID-19 a stand-alone crisis or part of an ongoing re-assessment of how we live our lives. In the last few years the rise of “wellness” as a key attribute in many categories of products and services has dramatically grown ( the Global Wellness Institute estimates the global wellness market at around $8billion now ). Our personal and business concerns about sustainability and the environment hit a new peak in 2019. The COVID-19 crisis seems like just an expected peak in a series of “possible pandemics” going back to SARS. And in the meantime, the marketing world has been swamped with the word “purpose” and the reappraisal of the need for brands to actually stand for something offering good to people and society.
In other words, even before 2020, we could see that successful brands were those that were going to target helping people live better lives in more complicated times. The question that COVID-19 times has just enhanced, not created, is “ what can my brand do for you to make your life healthier, better, more happy?”
As Aftab pointed out there is almost something mystical about what is happening …
“COVID-19 seems like a punishment to many people which is part of a process of cleansing the world and we need to realize that disasters can happen fast and brands need to adapt to this emerging world where people will want help in coping”.
People are stressed
Whether in Bangladesh or any other country COVID-19 has created the same four consistent mindsets :
FEAR (“you mean people are dying?” to “what can I do, who can help, what do we need to do?”)
DESPERATION (from “we better overstock on toilet paper” to “where can we hide” to “I am going to search for everything and listen to anybody for help”
ACTIVE CHANGE (“stay at home, work from home, create our own little universe of safety in these four walls” to “I am going to follow that Youtube cooking class, buy more fresh food, eat better” to “I have to learn to cope with homeschooling, home working, home entertainment, home exercise – a whole new lifestyle”
COPING WITH DIFFERENT (“I have to find the right sources of information” to “actually some of this seemed tough but I am learning about myself and maybe making some changes in life” to “understanding which brands really were/are trying to help and which are just playing a game to sell stuff or look good” )
And for each of the above brands of all kinds have needed to make changes and decide where they fit, which questions they are answering
Health and Wellness is now actively revisited
Maybe it is a case of taking up “old” habits. Drinking hot water more often, revisiting grandma’s simple advice, or as we said learning to cook. Yes food delivery services have boomed but along with that the desire for delivered fresh food has also risen. On-line cooking classes have boomed. Where shows like Masterchef have been super popular in the last decade as entertainment, 2020 has seen a renewed interest in all sorts of cooking and especially the basics as whole generations learn to cook again. And cook healthier.
The simple act of taking our shoes off before entering our home and creating a “safety zone” around the doors to keep out the risks of the outside world is pretty symbolic of a bigger trend. Our homes may well be our castles but they are certainly our refuges. So we are looking for help and advice as to how to keep them and all of our family inside safer. Stocking up on key treatments and medicines is only one step. Re-assessing the routine of cleanliness to include washing hands to the sanitization of everything we come in contact with will have a long term effect. Think about how we have reassessed personal hygiene and how any business is and will have to continue to reassess. As markets have started to open up, we have seen continued and enhanced care with public toilets, shops and restaurants cleanliness, new regulations and new enforcement. All of which is creating heightened ongoing awareness and habits that grands will be asked to support.
Because ultimately “prevention is better than cure” and a brand needs to find a place in the world of prevention and advice. So wellness, and all it’s implications of helping lead a healthier life going forward rather than fixing problems after they have taken off will continue to boom.
HealthCare needs to step up
Of course COVID-19 times have highlighted that the day has come that even the affluent people and rich can’t travel to neighboring countries like India, Singapore, and Bangkok for health solutions. The shortcomings of every country’s health sector have come to the fore whether you are in the USA or the UK or Bangladesh. The demand for quality healthcare facilities is on the rise. And with that comes opportunities for businesses to rethink what they can do.
– The best medicine always comes with inspiration and there is a lot of opportunities in helping people cope : like creating positive mindsets, helping reduce anxiety by making any service easier, looking for solutions to help people get good sleep, exercise correctly for better short and long term health, rethink what is healthy food and how to access it, prepare it, enjoy it. Think about the supplements business. Now it needs to be seen and marketed as part of the holistic healthcare solutions that people see as the future. No more just taking a pill. Integrate what you do well with other categories to produce holistic alliances for better health. For example fresh fruit juice bars integrated with supplements brands and sleep apparel brands.
– Medicines/pharmacy/hospital brands should add value to people’s wellbeing. For example COVID-19 has also taught how to collaborate among competitors. Sanofi and GSK are working together for vaccine solutions. How about Dhaka hospital brands working with telcos and delivery services to get better diagnosis and treatment services to not just those that are seriously sick but to anyone wanting to improve their health.
– When it comes to healthcare brands
“image+ reputation+ action= brand”. In Bangladesh this is the most challenging thing as too many companies are novices about modern marketing and understanding how real success will come from helping people live better lives. For example service is often weak and disjointed and for many brands the best way they can help in tough times like these is simple by making good service experiences throughout their customers journey. Call Centre> Reception>DR >Nurse> Supply Chain etc might seem obvious areas for improvement for the serious health industry. But for any brand having better service experiences like easy to access advice will make a difference and better memories of what the brand “did for me”.
Technology is being sped up by COVID-19
Technology is of course getting more central to all aspects of our lives. But the crisis speeds things up and that is certainly true of the health crisis. Just as e-delivery of every kind of FMCG and other goods has picked up so has e-medicine. Around the world, companies are pushing hard to introduce new e-consultancy services. Applying AI technology for diagnosis with higher levels of precision is the next great healthcare growth area. And it is happening in Bangladesh as much as anywhere. Services are launching in this time of crisis to ensure access to specialists, doctors, pharmacies through technological processes and proper information. What we imagined was science fiction a few years ago will by 2021 be reality and smart marketers are looking for partners to align with and be a part of these new opportunities.
COVID-19 is a disaster, there is no doubting that. As we write this column we know the worst may be yet to come. But while we pray and hope for everyone’s safety we can also see that 2020 is creating change and reassessment of the way people of all kinds are looking at health and wellness and we hope we can help any business who wants to be of greater service and create new opportunities for people to live well.
STEVE SOWERBY, President of Xpotential, a global consultancy to the health industry shared these thoughts during our Lead Talk The crisis has underlined the most important truth of Health and Wellness. That the most important ‘medicine’ is the individual who is informed, empowered and inspired. Before COVID-19, seduced by health-related high technologies, shiny new hospitals and ever more powerful and expensive drugs we overlooked this simple truth at our peril. Health and Wellness should not be a ‘luxury’ for the privileged few but a right for all. We had forgotten that the most basic of solutions can massively change the course of the disease and has been proven in these last few months. The simple act of washing your hands, wearing a mask and staying away from potential sources of infection has done more in saving lives than all the intensive care units and drugs – it costs almost nothing and yet the impact is huge. We must not forget the power for having good health and wellness rests with us as individuals – no matter where we live. The responsibility of Specialists, Doctors, Pharmacists and other Health Care Workers working in partnership with Companies in Health and Wellness is to inform us all with the best, relevant and unbiased Health information, to empower us with solutions, tools and techniques which can go from the most basic and simple changes in lifestyle or diet to the most sophisticated drugs and interventions and to and most importantly to Inspire us. To help us to believe that we can change, want to change and how to change. When a person believes there is nothing that they will not do to make a difference to their Health and Wellness. No country in the world can afford or will ever afford to take responsibility for every person. COVID-19 has bought almost all of our Health Systems to their knees. The UK National Health System (NHS), one of the world’s most comprehensive and leading Public health departments came within days of collapse after just a few short weeks. It’s time to stop relying on others. It’s time to take responsibility for our own health and it’s time for Medical Profession and Health and Wellness companies to take responsibility to give us the best of information, solutions and inspiration.
are the Founders of Marketing Futures – A knowledge platform where Training, Mentoring and Brand Consultancies are carried out by international marketing veterans.
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