Our Thinking

Help Yourself: Consumer Health Brands Move Beyond the Pharmacy Counter

August 2019

By Mona Bhatnagar, Director Strategy

Self-serve wellness has always been part of the consumer health industry, but, in recent years, the relationship between self-care and self-cure products has flipped.

Advances in technology, greater medical awareness, and disruption to traditional modes of medical services around the world, mean that health is no longer limited to the doctor’s office or pharmacy. Consumers are more health-savvy than ever and are taking control of their total wellness – and as has been the case in technology, media, and retail – they’re willing to break from established brands to try disruptive new companies that will meet their individual needs.

These changes were on full view at the 2019 Balance Wellness Festival in London. The brands who participated – including many new-to-world companies – helped to reveal five key trends that are transforming the consumer health industry and the brands it encompasses.

1. (Deep) Inside Knowledge
D2C diagnostic tools allow consumers to go way beyond traditional medical tests

From early entrants in DNA testing, like 23andme and DNAfit, to newer epigenetic profiling offers, like Chronomics and Muhdo, there is now a buoyant sector of companies giving consumers easy access to more information than ever before on what impacts their individual health and wellness. The emerging opportunity is in the area of helping consumers decide exactly what to do with all the data and them providing the relevant, customized solutions.

2. Formulated Just For You
Personalized vitamin and nutrition regimes developed for your specific needs

Personalization, already so common in many other sectors, is finally having an impact in consumer health. Manufacturing and technology advances have enabled new brands to efficiently tailor their offering, their packaging, and their communications to specific individual needs and preferences. This trend is particularly prevalent in the area of supplements with a whole host of new entrants like Vive, VitaminBuddy, vitl, vitalmins, and care/of, formulating highly individualized supplements for specific issues and goals.

3. Guts For Glory
OTC pro-biotics go mainstream as a panacea for all ills

The connection between what we eat, how we feel, and our physical health has now been widely documented. As our microbiome continue to gain attention in the news, patents in this area continue to rise, spanning disease diagnosis to dietary supplements. Companies like Thryve test and then create personalized probiotic supplements, while others like VSL3, Symprove, and OpitBac are providing education, issue-specific products and effective delivery of powerful probiotics over-the-counter.

4. Healthy Everything
Optimizing the health of every single part of your body

Consumers are looking much more holistically at their health and all the factors that influence it. New brands have responded with products that address overall wellness as well as highly specialized influencing factors: Arbonne produces an integrated range of nutrition and skincare items, Peppersmith and Zendium say they build body health through oral health, while Blooming Blends and Scentered offer immediate effects through the tinctures and aromas respectively.

5. Power Plants
Nutrition goes back to nature

The demand for natural, sustainable products has logically spread to supplements with brands like Link Nutrition and Nuzest delivering food-based supplements, rather than synthetic ones, and a myriad of (legal) CBD brands trying to be the natural alternative to pharmaceuticals.

What do these trends mean for established consumer health companies and their brand strategies?

Even as the sector evolves and competition increases, it’s clear there are significant opportunities for growth. To be successful, however, traditional brands must now move beyond what they have traditionally sold and how they have traditionally sold it, adopting strategies from their new entrant counterparts.

New entrants in this space are unencumbered by large organizations and complex processes, or by the legacy of product-centric marketing and sales structures. Their mindset and their brands are much more user-centric. And, as digital natives, these companies know how to take advantage of online communication and sales channels to form direct relationships with consumers, which allow them greater control over the customer experience and the possibility of building greater brand affinity and loyalty. They also leverage new technology, data, and AI to deliver highly personalized offerings, setting themselves apart from the standardized products and general broadcast-style communications prevalent in the sector.

To compete, established brands must consider dismantling their product-centric structures and mindset, focusing more on user-centric innovation and direct sales channels.

Traditional consumer health companies have the advantage of being able to leverage the existing trust and equity in their brands, but they must invest in building closer, more inclusive, direct relationships with consumers, even disintermediating traditional retailers entirely. They should be reviewing their brand portfolios, looking for opportunities to increase their relevance to consumers who are no longer just seeking illness remedies but are demanding solutions for their total wellness—from diagnosis to prevention to on-going, holistic treatments for mental and physical health.

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Straightline is an international brand strategy and design consultancy. We work with leaders of global and emerging businesses to develop brand strategies and creative solutions that help organizations improve their business and bottom line. To have a conversation about your brand, contact us.

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