Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Ever-changing Word for “Healthy”

Words motivate.  Sometimes new sets  of words are needed to describe our needs and motivate us to act upon our needs, even when our needs are really the same as before.  Let’s examine one’s need to lose 10 pounds, get in shape, and try to live a healthy life – a nearly universal need in our culture.  As a Baby Boomer food marketer myself (who could use a little of that motivation as well), I have watched over the years as the words with which consumers identify to achieve this goal have changed. Here’s a not-so-perfect historical view of this landscape.

  1. During the 1980s, “dieting” was the watch word. “Fitness” and “looking good” were also popular and reflected our achiever attitudes of the day.
  2. During the 1990s, we softened up a bit, changed the vocabulary and (lowered) our expectations.  “Healthy living” and its brother, “healthy lifestyle” were the buzz words of the 90s.  Everything in “moderation” was popular as well.
  3. By the late 90s, “Balanced (lifestyle)” and “Simple (living)” bulldozed the health and fitness phase and the the word “Healthy”.
  4. As our parents aged, we came to embrace the word “power” and “strength” as it related to aging, hoping that we too would feel empowered and strong as we age.
  5. Oprah brought us into an era of “empowerment” as she ran up and down the scales.

Where are we now?  Coming through a tough economic time, we see a lot of “smart”  living, “points” programs, and “lean”.  These words draw a tidy picture and demonstrate control.

Where are we going?   I’m betting we tie to the eco-friendly, sustainable movement and embrace words like “naturally”, “green” and “sustainable”.  

Make no mistake, it is all about losing the pounds and getting in shape.  Prior words are cast out like last years shoes, to be replaced by more fitting words that truly define what we are all about.  A new generation of hope, a new expectation, a new day.

It is important for marketers to find the right words to tap into the deeper psyche.  Sure it sounds a bit contrived, but people change, we elect new presidents, we buy new cars, we change our wardrobe.  Who wants to be seen using last out of date “words”.  Especially when those words were SO instrumental to our weight loss success (hmm?). Lets face it, few of us are living a healthful lifestyle.  Those who can actually get us to move will win great rewards in the market and help a lot of people along the way.

I have a new set of words for you. How about “put down that (cheeseburger) (cheese and crackers) (insert your choice word) and “go for a run”.

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