Health claims are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to marketing health food products, says Alan Ruth, CEO of the Irish Health Trade Association, in this guest article.
The drivers of consumer purchasing behaviour are complex and other elements of what marketers call the ‘marketing mix’, besides health claims, can influence the purchase of a product.
If a company has been using a particular health claim to ‘position’ a product in consumers’ minds, but that claim has not been authorised, the company will need to ‘re-position’ the product to create a different image or identity in the minds’ of their target consumers for their product, brand or company.
Capitalising on partnering with retailers
Retailers are potentially a crucially important element of a company’s marketing mix. Neither the manufacturer/supplier, nor the retailer acting alone, can sell products as effectively as when they work together. Manufacturers (or their agents) need to strategically invest in nurturing relationships with their retail partners.
In that retailers interact directly with consumers, they are in an ideal position to influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. To help retail staff in this influence process, companies should endeavour to position or re-position their product(s) in the minds of retailers, so they in turn can do so with consumers. Companies need to seize the opportunity to incentivize retailers to recommend their product(s) to consumers. They also need to equip them with any other pertinent information which will ensure they are confident to do so.
One definition of a brand is: “the emotional and psychological relationship you have with your customers.” As many products no longer have approved health claims, companies should consider connecting with consumers at an emotional level, in order to build brand loyalty. Although health products marketing has always been health claims driven, marketers need to recognize that health is an emotive and personal subject.
In future, it will be important for companies to communicate with consumers at a more emotional level and ultimately become a trusted partner, so as to sustain brand loyalty in the long run. Emotional branding can add value to a product and help differentiate it from the competition.
Trust has a strong emotional component and gaining consumer trust in a health brand is crucial for success. Once gained, it can be leveraged successfully throughout the brand. If companies fail to differentiate themselves at a level beyond functional (product) based features and benefits, they will be unable to sustain strong brand loyalty.
Optimising brand equity
Companies will need to focus on optimizing ‘brand equity’ i.e. the added value with which a given brand endows a product. Brand equity is based on the extent to which the brand has high brand loyalty, name awareness, perceived quality and strong product associations. Health claims do not have to be an aspect of brand equity!
A company ‘tagline’
A company ‘tagline’ can be a very important component of any branding strategy. It serves to differentiate a company’s brand from its competition. It can help to define what a company is all about. It should communicate, in a creative and distinctive way; the ‘reason why’ consumers should choose the brand.
Examples of possible company taglines might be – ‘Your trusted partner in health’, ‘Health is our business’, ‘We’re passionate about health’, or, ‘Your healthy lifestyle partners’.
A company tagline should say something essential about what a company is and how it’s different. Before deciding to use a tagline, a company should check that the tagline is not already trademarked. If a company makes it clear in its commercial communications that their tagline is a company/corporate one, then in theory, it shouldn’t be viewed as contravening the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation in which health claims relate to a nutrient, substance, food or food category, and not to a company.