Thursday, June 24, 2010

Can advertising make people healthier?


People often rant about the evils of advertising, and how it forces people to buy things they don’t really want. I say prove it. Advertising is just a communications tool, and its power can be harnessed for good or bad purposes. I just wish it would be used more for the former.

A good place to start is by addressing the obesity crisis. But how do we do that when 76% of people say they know that what they eat affects their health, but only 36% consider their diets to be healthy? (And don’t forget the fudge factor.)

The first step, as always, is to understand the target. A recent segmentation study has identified six distinct groups based on attitudes toward wellness. They are:
The I Give Ups (24%)
The Strugglers (14%)
The Immortals (16%)
The Fitterati (16%)
The Fact Finders (15%)
The Heath Gurus (15%)
(Banikarim, 2010)

While the data has not been crossed referenced with health issues, it seems fairly likely that the first group would be the one most in need of encouragement; and given that it’s the largest, a good place to start.

Research shows that this group is overwhelmed by the amount of things they need to do to get healthy. That suggests simplifying the information they are being given, and providing it in small sound bites with easy to follow changes might work.

What do you think? Does this seem like a good direction? Or would we be better off addressing another segment – like the Fact Finders – and encouraging them to become advocates?

Banikarim, M. (2010, June 18). Weighing In On Health: Marketing Behavior Change. Retrieved June 23, 2010, from


  1. I think simplification is a great step for the first half of that list. Too often, a product maker grabs on to some clinical research point that is vaguely dishonest. Not being orange or fried or having any trans fat doesn't make the new "Natural Cheetos" a healthy option (9 grams of fat per ounce!).
    I spent a decade in a business that is a pioneer of greenmarket cooking in NYC, which totally changed my diet and way of thinking about food and taste, and this sort of marketing really bothers me. They've spent years spewing out 'O trans fat, O corn syrup, antioxidant, etc...' for years, confusing people more than anything else. It turns people off and our obesity rate grows.

    The truth is hard to swallow, that we have to change our eating habits. The marketing that would need to be done on this should be truthful but upbeat, and simpler, and in such a way that it seems appealing to the top 3 on the list; the bottom 3 pretty much are already there, or even too 'over the top' to reach those less inclined to eat well. More emphasis should also be on taste--how delicious fresh food is and the fun of cooking. We are in a good moment for this culturally I think.

  2. I can speak to both the "I Give Ups" and the "Strugglers" because I'm a member of both groups. As a struggler who often gives up I think making the information simple is only half the battle. Research has shown that many who are considered obese are emotional eaters and until that barrier is broken I really don't think the way the information is given is going to make enough of a difference. So, though delivering the information in a simpler form is a start in the right direction, I don't think it will yield a solution to the problem.


  3. Simplification is a great way to introduce a healthier routines into the lifes of the unhealthy. You already see it with "Simple healthier ingrediants" and "Workout only five minutes a day!" That is a great positive way to grab hold of that market and encourage that group to get invovled with their health and wellbeing. The second part of that challenge is making it stick. Whenever I see those type of ads I think to myself, "Wow, that IS easy. Ill pick that up tomorrow." There is always a tomorrow. There has to be another way to approach the target, a "stickiness factor"

  4. While simplification is appealing It doesn't always suggest honesty. There are so many ads for diet quick fixes that boast quick and easy ways to lose weight and be healthy. However, so often these results are short lived and can just discourage people even more. I think these types of ads should be easy to understand but also very frank about what it takes to really achieve the results this target would be looking for. It should be simple in the sense that it's something easy to incorporate into most peoples lives not simple as in instant gratification.