What’s supplementing you?

Supplements. They’ve always been around. In recent times they have been more consciously sought than doctor recommended. According to Frost & Sullivan, the market for nutritional supplements in immune health alone is estimated to reach 1.1 billion in 2016.
I’m reminded of a powerful quote by a former supervisor that stuck with me: “Drug companies have taken the market and exploited it, blown it up to the point where people can’t get through a day without relying on a product. There will come a time they’re on the stands defending their case and when that happens, they’ll make tobacco companies look like choir boys”.

supplement aisleIn this scenario of saturation and heightened consumer awareness, it has become more challenging for brands to defend their existence and differentiate from competition. Some take-aways that might help:

Starting young: Healthcare and nutrition have always sparked the interest of a wide and diverse Canadian audience. It’s not just the baby boomers that are intrigued by the subject though; the millennials are now leading the ‘healthcare consumerism’ revolution and have been known to be “supplement-savvy” as this article puts it. Very often, mitigating the guilt of poor dietary choices is behind this trend. What it means for brands: Might be interesting to break traditional category codes in packaging, use consumer-friendly language and state benefits upfront to help the purchase journey. Take a cue from the very successful Vitamin Water.

Wellness is the new healthy: The language of health is transitioning from treatment to prevention. It’s gone beyond just the yoga and smoothie culture, to the consumption of supplements like CoQ10 (for heart health) and probiotics and it has every healthcare giant manufacturing their brand of it in different formats and flavours. No jokes, CoQ10 even comes in a lip balm. What it means for brands: Differentiating is key. It might also be worth considering alternate sampling and retail environments besides the boring drug store.

Maple Life's Vegan Calcium at the CHFA show, 2014

Maple Life’s Vegan Calcium at the CHFA show, 2014

The rise of the conscientious label-reading consumer: Easy access to medical research and an interest in taking control of their health has led to consumers being more informed, conscious and aware of what they choose to ingest. What it means for brands: You can be sure when scouring the drug-store aisles, your consumer is not just picking up the first multi-v bottle they see – he or she is turning it over to see if it’s organic, vegan, gluten-free, non GMO. During my recent stint with Innovite Health, I was asked a bunch of these questions when sampling product at the Cardiac Health Association’s Walk of Life event. Naturally sourced is also a huge draw.

While the supplement-taking market continues to grow, there is still a sizeable, healthy population that does not rely on any simply because they haven’t found the need for it or require further guidance. There’s an opportunity here for brands to educate and inform this untapped market.

The supplement shelf is vast and cluttered and there continues to be a need for brands to disrupt category norms, innovate through technology and simplify the decision process – through both online and brick and mortar channels.

So, how are you picking out your supplements?

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Nuit Blanche, where were brands at?

For those unaware, Nuit Blanche is an annual art event here in Toronto that takes place one magical night in October,from dusk to dawn. It involves people roaming the city streets viewing and experiencing art installations. It goes by different names across the world but it’s the same concept.

This year while walking from exhibit A to a watering hole 40 mins away (public transit and cars were in major gridlock,hence), I found myself reflecting on more than just the existential crisis the world is experiencing, through quantification of a paradoxical analysis (art speak). I started to wonder why brands missed out on this chance to talk to their people on a night when they’re out and about, in no hurry to get to somewhere and with no particular agenda in mind. Now I know art purists are probably thinking – How dare! this is an art event, I don’t want to see no advertising hoopla! – But hear me out. I’m not talking about an in-your-face billboard trying to sell insurance while wishing everyone a happy Nuit Blanche. I’m talking about brands that could very easily engage in a non-intrusive, relevant manner. Some broad product categories that could have used this opportunity to say hello:

#1: Hydration brands: A hoard of people walking the streets for hours, common sense dictates they’re going to need hydrating. Every Shopper’s Drug Mart I walked past had people lining up to buy precious H2O. Where was Dasani/Vitamin Water? Being present when relevant shows brand care, few booths around town wouldn’t have hurt. On the same note, I’m sure coffee would have been much appreciated too.

#2: Active lifestyle brands: Something about all that walking makes you think about how you need to get more exercise – good time to be reminded of Adidas’ Fall collection of trainers. If Subaru could have a guy spray painting what they called “the art car”, I’m sure Adidas could have had a giant shoe installation. subaru

#3:Foot Care brands:  At some point I wanted nothing more than a quick foot massage – reminded me of OSIM’s foot massager chair – the type they have installed in some malls. What a great chance for a bunch of these to have been installed around town that night.

#4: Charging Stations:  Portable phone charging stations! It doesn’t matter whether a battery/phone manufacturer or Telcom took the initiative, but “my phone is dying” was the most heard line all night – why? Logical. People constantly had their phones out snapping pictures and tweeting their experiences. Nokia, you were a sponsor, why no friendly gesture of this sort?

Speaking of sponsors, Tourism Toronto was one of the sponsors – I couldn’t help thinking how a few interesting informational displays about otherwise sparsely ventured into neighbourhoods would have made a nice read, for locals as well as those visiting.

On a slightly unrelated note, it was awesome to see artists incorporating brands into their art, Vespa I hope you saw this creature someone created out of Vespa body parts (spotted around Kensignton)vespa

In the world of social media,what had me baffled was the official Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Twitter handle’s lack of response to questions asked. The account was only used to send out (albeit pre-composed) tweets all night, but not reply to any – this is the megaphone vs walkie-talkie approach some brands are yet to comprehend when it comes to social. Automation is NOT the way,especially when it counts the most. Also, why no app this year?

I’m sure there are a host of other ideas, and I agree, some of these ideas might not have been able to achieve much given the sheer numbers, but it’s the thought and presence that counts sometimes. I’d love to hear what you think – should brands have found a way to be relevant to this mass of pedestrians or would that take away from the art?

BlackBerry10 saves the day?

It’s here. RIM, after months of being in hiding, has come out from behind the curtains and presented to the world, the BlackBerry10. Oh and they’ve changed the name of the company(to BlackBerry) while they were at it. Oh and they created a Super Bowl commercial too. If you’re reading between the lines, you might smell a faint whiff of desperation in the air. Classic case of rise of the underdog or the last cry of a falling empire?

For a company that was out of the scene for over 18 months(although they had a 4G LTE BlackBerry PlayBook launch at some point during this mobile market hiatus) and missed a big part of smartphone mania, to  launch a new phone and hope it turns things around seems like a tall ask. For a late-to-the-party entrant,it appears like this phone has alot riding on it – Brand Cachet. The company’s fortunes. Stocks. Consumer perceptions. Jobs.

While it may appear that I’m writing them off, I’ve been a believer in their offering. I’m aware there’s a whole market out there that loves their BlackBerry devices and swear by it, especially for its physical Querty keypad and efficiency in syncing business emails. Infact, that was a very good move to ensure there’s a non touchscreen variant(the Q10) as well – ensuring it doesn’t alienate its base consumer.

Although, I think their launch and marketing strategy could have been better. I’m going to take an objective stab at a few things I think they could have done from an advertising/marketing stand point

1. Superbowled?: While I thought the Super Bowl commercial was nice in terms of what it aimed to do(draw attention/cut through clutter), I’d like to know what metrics they were looking to affect. Awareness? Those who needed to know about this launch, already knew. And those who didn’t, weren’t going to stop right there and look it up. Afterall, this is at a point where consumer faith in the brand was fast diminishing. I feel like a constant reminder (Times Square activation for instance) might have possibly been better than a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it superbowl attempt.

2. Built to keep you Moving: I liked this commercial for what it was trying to say – that this phone won’t get in the way of life(Reminded me of a old Windows phone commercial), however, without referencing BlackBerry Hub as the reason for this, it could get yawned at. Yes smartphones have moved from being just tech-packed offerings to providing smooth user experiences, but for a brand that’s been away so long, more focus on specs wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Another suggestion would be to have 15 sec spots created to highlight new product features.

3. So, who are you?: If a company is going to attempt to relaunch itself, after being incognito for a while, how about a branding commercial to go with it? Maybe a sneak peak into what goes on behind the scenes? A voiceover explaining what has changed? What this would do is melt the ice and bring a sense of relatability towards the company. Android,Apple(that’s the only time I’ll mentioned them in this post,I promise) and even Windows have built-up brand imagery; somehow BlackBerry falls short here.

4. Wow me: The BlackBerry Balance and Peek and Flow are two very unique and interesting features that could have used a little more spotlight. Put it down to Canadian modesty if you must, but the smartphone market is already divided between Apple, Android and lately, Windows; if you want people to talk about you when you haven’t been around for a while, you might want to blow your own trumpet a bit.

5. Hold onto the attention: BlackBerry needs a game plan for what they intend to do after the initial launch excitement dies down. They’ve managed to stir the market up quite a bit, it would be nice if they retained consumer attention and market buzz – either through teasing out the phone’s features through advertising, constant audience engagement or (like its PlayBook offering) look at branching out into other gadget markets?

I believe that the BlackBerry10 will be a good phone and live up to all that it promises. It looks poised to win a chunk of the Droid and Apple market over as well. What I’m rooting for however, is to see if the brand can make a full circle comeback. I’d like to see that happen. 

Digital gets real

The retail outlet has always been treated as an important touch point in communicating with the consumer. Then with the advent of e-commerce, the spotlight shifted to the online UI.

Real world experiences aren’t going away though, as the Retail Renaissance trend pointed out a while back; they’re re-emerging in a big way. Digital technologies are revamping traditional retail, and bringing it to life. Online is now driving the consumer offline. In fact the lines are fast blurring and brands that still silo the two are going to have to play catch up.

Digital for digital’s sake might not cut it anymore, digital strategists are fast becoming experience curators who have the discernment to weave uninterrupted brand experiences across platforms.

While digital offers convenience and technology, brick and mortar stores offer sensorial immersion. The sweet spot lies in the coming together of these worlds. The recently transformed Burberry flagship store in London is a great example. The store is transformed into 44,000 ft of digital wow. From mirrors that are motion sensitive and turn into runways, to live streaming of the London Fashion Show, this store is a living breathing brand world.

Then there’s Audi City, mentioned in my previous post as well, which is a first of its kind digital car showroom. With ceiling to floor ‘power walls’ that allow you to dream up exactly how you’d like your car to look, while letting you maintain a seamless experience from website to store and back to website.

While driving the consumer online was once the chosen path, bringing the online experience to stores is where digital truly comes a full circle.

The PoP engagement …& more?

The rules of “Consumer Engagement” have been getting ink in every other article, publication, blog and ‘how-to’ advertising guide out there in recent times. Well-deserved no doubt, brands have already moved past telling their story to reaching out and asking you to write it with them. In today’s ‘always-on-my-phone’ age though, engagement has largely taken the form of apps, online engagement, and ofcourse the twitterverse and facebooksphere.
If you think back to the traditional retail kiosk though, are we still only having one-way conversations with the consumer? Is there a level of interaction that can be built in, in a subtle way without the nightmarish corner-and-distract car salesman technique? It raises questions like How does one read the shopper’s disposition? Would they want to be approached? Do they want to hear what’s on sale? Or…do they just want to be left alone to browse,without the sales talk?

Clinique attempts a psychic-equivalent of mind reading with purposeful wrist bands, that encourage shoppers to wear one to ‘speak their mind’. Wear green ‘for a consultation’, Pink ‘to browse in peace’ and White for ‘Express Service’.

This attempts to solve the problem of intimidating potential customers with overselling/shadowing them around. Ofcourse, it needs to translate to an attentive sales force, that is constantly wrist-watching before launching into sell mode.

In my opinion, while this is a new approach and seemingly fresh, it could be further developed and could lend itself to a campaign thought. For instance, how about translating this level of consumer understanding into something Clinique can own? Could this reinstate Clinique’s branding as the professional skin care expert?

There’s a strong level of consumer interaction that these wrist bands summon, and a hint of what could be a big(ger) brand idea.

‘Engagement’ as a one-off is novelty, but could be very powerful if embraced and sucked into the brand’s essence and cross-channelized across all media. It would provide a level of consistency that makes brand interaction a smoother process than what it currently is.
Now if only there was an app for that.

beyondthemaple is currently unavailable. The writer is on a listening spree.

In my attempt at penning this entry, I kept getting carried away by the massive amounts of knowledge and information currently available through social media content, all of which has been hitting me at speeds that would give race car drivers a run for their money.

Social media has definitely hit an all time high – from tweeting to facebook updates, from gbuzz to blogging, the average social media junkie has his or her hands full up, all in a bid to tell all.  A little late for me to be singing the glories of the internet and social media, I agree, and what’s the new story there anyway,right ?

Well, I’m just curious – if everyone’s talking, who’s doing the listening?

I reckon that with the mass of information being spun onto the worldwide web, it’s time marketeers,branding gurus and even passionate crusaders need to move into receiving mode every now and then. From telling, to listening. From blogging, to following other blogs. From tweeting, to retweeting . From posting pictures to flickr, to taking time to view the world through some one else’s lens. From jazzing up one’s own profile page, to taking time to read what Alison from New Jersey is listening to these days.

Simple case in point, when I chose to follow MiamiAdSchool on twitter, it felt nice when MiamiAdSchool requested to follow me.  I would say this thought translates into the offline medium too – case in point – Primus. While Bell and Rogers (Canadian telecom giants) leave you to talk to a command recognition prompter when you call the helpline, Primus has a person that comes on the line, talks to you unscripted, and even cracks a little joke with you! (Just makes you feel like they’re truly listening).

Anyway returning to social media branding and its shout out loud approach to things – in an attempt to be present at all the right places and say all the right things, brands need to ensure they aren’t blowing their own trumpet to an audience that’s long gone because no one heard their side of the story.

–Edit:
I chanced upon an inspiring talk by Mat Zucker, agency.com on listening, thought it worthwhile to link to as it’s so relevant to this post.