Reaching the health-focused consumer

A new AOL report offers a window into engaging Canadians who want to improve their quality of life.

Canadians are increasingly becoming health-conscious, consuming vast amounts of info and investing in health and nutrition tracking apps and devices to fuel a need to look better, live well and longer. That’s not surprising given the context: an ageing population coupled with a growing awareness of what we consume and how it impacts our bodies. Those combined factors are fueling a tsunami of activity in the health and wellness space.

What does this mean for advertisers and agencies looking to stand out in a crowded solutions-based ecosystem? After all, the Economist noted the health sector was responsible for 16% of overall North American GDP. And digital advertising for Canadian pharma’s health spend alone was over $175 million in 2014, according to eMarketer. What’s also noteworthy is the large number of “bad ads” that float in the digital space attached to this sector, as Google documents in its 2015 Better Ads report. The company snared 12.5 million false pharma ads before they were served up to users.

Given the size and potential of the industry, AOL has emerged with a report titled, “The Consumer Decision Journey: Health and Wellness Canada,” which examines the opportunities for engagement with consumers in the growing sector. The idea for the report was initiated by AOL’s Alyson Gausby while she was still at Microsoft. AOL took it up following its partnership with Microsoft Advertising.

The report’s findings are based on a mixed-methodology (qualitative and quantitative) report, which involved in-depth interviews on the qualitative side and in-market questionnaires to a sample size of 3,000 and 4,000 respondents in U.K. and U.S. markets respectively. In Canada, AOL used an online survey across a nationally representative sample of 1,200 respondents.

According to it, Canadians’ health and fitness plans revolve mostly around the following goals: eating healthier, joining a fitness program or getting fit and losing weight, often working towards several of those goals at the same time. Health-and-fitness-based goals lend themselves to long-haul journeys, which means brands have an opportunity to position themselves as life-long partners.

The report identifies a five-step journey in actualizing an individual’s health goals and breaks them down for marketers to make the best of opportunities available at each stage of that journey. And because making lifestyle changes isn’t that easy, targeting people at the right time, the right place and with the right tools (rich media, branded content) is key. For instance, consumers with “start” goals, or those who are keen on starting better habits, are action-oriented and respond well to content compared with those who are in “stop” mode, who approach their goals with a focus on putting an end to bad habits. That latter type tends to fall off the goal-bandwagon when he or she dives into the Hagen-Dazs bar they swore never to eat again.

The best placement for your content depends largely on what type of information you’re looking to get across, the report suggests. For example, search is the best way to connect people to new approaches, inspirational content and expert reviews. Lifestyle content best fulfills a consumer’s needs when it provides new approaches, expert advice or inspirational stories and apps are most useful for monitoring habits to make sure people stay on track with their goals or when they want to compare their activity with others.

Research also showed that 45% of the English Canada market browses over-the-counter and pharmaceutical content at least once a month. Based on the individual’s goals and long-term plans, the report suggests that marketers re-strategize and find more innovative ways of reaching the individual, targeting their overall health needs instead of a single goal. That approach will open up buying and planning opportunities for a range of health-related products.

Then report suggests that brands can help consumers use their data to enhance insights and knowledge, given that health and fitness apps, which mostly monitor key health indicators and fitness levels, have grown 140% in 2015 and that the wearable market is also growing every year. Given that one-third of Canadians want to track their daily routines, habits and performance on devices, the area opens up opportunities for brand engagement.

The report is the first of its kind for AOL. Depending on how advertisers and agencies react to it, the media company says it is open to pursuing reports on other sectors.

From Media in Canada.