Wellness & Vanity: Where Health and Beauty Meet

By Jennifer Haid, EdD, iconoculture | September 15, 2007

Companies need to create brands that consumers can connect with on multiple levels.

Health and beauty are converging across a wide range of categories, from travel and home, to media and entertainment. People of all ages recognize that a healthy lifestyle leads to a better appearance—whether it’s nonsmokers avoiding facial lines or exercisers maintaining a healthy weight—and the call to action for marketers is to make this wellness-vanity connection as clear, powerful and attainable as possible.

Health-Beauty Convergence

It’s essentially a mindset that connects the dots between looking and feeling good, between inner and outer wellness, between individual and environmental good. Whether it’s a subtle nod to health or beauty, or a brand name that calls it right out—à la Rembrandt Oral Health and Beauty—the convergence appeals to consumers’ desire for sound health and a positive image. (It’s worth clarifying here that “health” encompasses physical health, mental/emotional wellness, social responsibility and eco-responsibility.)

Cross-culturally fluent twenty-somethings, legacy-oriented new “Gen X” parents and “garden-of-earthly-delights-loving” Baby Boomers all appreciate the health-beauty connection, though often in different, nuanced ways. Millennials don’t remember a time when spirituality and wellness or confidence and beauty weren’t intrinsically linked. Ever on the prowl for increased control, Gen Xers are reading labels, demanding purity in personal care products and eating for beauty. And Boomers? They just want to look and feel young and vibrant forever!

The Traveling Sweet Spot

Consider the breadth of the health and beauty markets today: evidence of their connection isn’t just where one would expect to see it. Yes, shoppers perusing any drug or mass aisle will quickly see everything from “botanical” and “natural” personal care products to claims that deliver nutrients for “the health of your skin.” Head into the specialty and prestige outlets, and eco-friendly beauty brands abound. Even the folks who don’t get out much are reminded of the connection in antioxidant- and supplement-rich beauty advertisements and beauty product and brand partnerships with social and environmental causes. 

But the health-beauty convergence spills beyond lotions and functional beverages into the retail space with Miami’s Afterglo restaurant for beauty cuisine and Edamame Maternity Spa’s products and services for expectant moms (water retention massage, anyone?). It hits media in Figure and Elxir magazines and the travel space in Belly Beautiful pregnancy retreats and post-nip-and-tuck hotel relaxation packages.

So why should companies pay attention to the health-beauty connection? First, it broadens appeal. If your company has a history of delivering to the health consumer, now is the chance to get the beauty consumer’s attention, and vice versa. Second, it shows that your company understands that consumers don’t live in silos. Cross-category appeal and inspiration are critical to delivering an innovative and relevant product. And third, it enables your company to potentially stand for both the quick fix and the long-term benefit.

Table 1

Key Themes & Predictions

Table 1 presents seven themes central to the notion of the wellness-vanity convergence. Each theme is mapped according to consumer and marketer thinking (how do consumers think about this idea? How do marketers approach it?), consumer values (why are they drawn to a theme?), and some examples of who’s dong it well.

For the Future

So what does it all mean? The richest insights come from a threefold process: understanding what’s happening in the marketplace and culture, stepping back to understand the “why” behind the “what,” and moving forward to explore the “so what?” Consider the following as you begin to explore actionable opportunities. 
• Connect looking and feeling good in a message that highlights “What you see is what you get.” Tell consumers this is purity they can see—and feel good about using on their own and their families’ skin every day.
• Appeal to health-conscious consumers’ values in products and collateral that call out your company’s or brand’s commitment to a balance of health and beauty.
• What do you stand for, beyond making a profit? Be a brand that people equate with meaning on various levels—i.e., products that are functional as well as environmentally and socially responsible, and an organization that is forward-thinking and invested in the wellness of its employees.
• Link fragrance and wellness in home spa products that relax, restore and revive. Partner with personal care brands and position products together as tools for the perfect night’s sleep, morning boost or midday escape.

The wellness-vanity connection is growing in both the consumer mindset and marketplace representation. If a typical look at health and beauty products and retailers yields predictable and familiar results, consider turning on the TV, taking a stroll in a hotel or airport, or just thumbing through a magazine with an open mind. The opportunities are just beginning to reveal themselves.

About the Author
Jennifer Haid is vice president and consumer strategist—Health & Beauty, iconoculture. Minneapolis, MN. She can be reached at 925-997-3020. Email: jhaid@iconoculture.com.
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