A manifesto: unlocking Meaningful Difference is the key to growing brands in health and wellbeing.


Growing health and wellbeing brands is tougher than ever – competitive intensity; fragmented media; digital disruption; retailer power; regulatory constraints; disengaged consumers; category commoditisation; innovation challenges; investment pressure, where do we start? But, before we cry into our cough syrup, we still live in a world full of opportunities.

In wellbeing categories, the growth in ‘free-from’, super-ingredients, vegan products etc. reflect an intense interest – especially from younger consumers – in investing in being well. In self-medication whilst growth is only ‘steady’ in most categories, even some of the really established categories still have a gap between suffering and treating, which means there are still prizes to win here.  

So, what to do?

Simple. We need to get back to the difficult process of brand building. The aim must be to build an asset that establishes what we refer to as a Meaningful Difference versus its competitive set. Meaningful because it is relevant and engaging. Different because brands need to be extraordinary to win in our complex, cluttered environment. The only meaningful outcome is to grow penetration, consumption, sales and profit and build brands.

The health and wellness brands we see winning are all delivering Meaningful Difference– whatever they might call it! If you’re a new brand you might not know what this is yet, if you’re an old brand you might have had it but lost your way so here’s our quick guide to establishing meaningful difference. You don’t have to be spending millions of pounds for this process to work, it can be incremental small steps that push you over the line and make meaningful difference.

1.      RELEVANCE. The core of meaning. 

·       It starts with people and the barriers to penetration. People have complex and ambivalent relationships with illness, medication and wellness. People aren’t failing to treat because they lack needs or are stupid. Most of us use a highly personal equation of learned behaviours often that balances the severity and familiarity of the problem against the solutions available and modified by a set of emotional/behavioural barriers to treating or not treating. No two segments are the same. 

·       In a regulated world with little uniqueness you must define why you are more relevant to meet the basic needs of the category than the next brand or, increasingly, own label. This might seem obvious, but time after time brands don’t start here.

·       This requires you to sweat your deep understanding of the category; the adjacencies; the competitive set; the product/indication science; the expert perspective; consumer insight and the barriers in their real, not idealised behaviour. The mindset is broadly the same whether it’s an OTC, a cosmetic skincare or VMS product. Our mantra – ‘never turn on the Mac until you’ve defined the relevance’. 

·       You need to force yourself to make hard choices. The more you leave behind the greater your potential to be meaningfully relevant. We ask two questions: how do we intend to persuade people to enter the category [penetration] and then why will they choose us [preference] ? Until you have defined this, no amount of creative genius or marketing investment will really move the needle. 

2.      DISTINCTIVNESS. The creative component. 

·       In healthcare genuine difference is unicorn rare, so we try to think about how to magnify our relevance platform in a way that stands out and engages. This is hard, because given the long established ‘rules’ in many health categories being different for its own sake rarely works – you need to balance rule breaking with a need to embrace some of the relevant category rules/codes. Tricky.

·       This is the fun bit! The exploration of distinctiveness through a range of creative platforms is where your brand idea morphs into an actionable, deliverable entity. Be brave because we are defining the brand’s long term visual, verbal and behavioural DNA. And this is where a great partner agency can help.

3.      CREDIBILITY. The moment of trust.

·       Which brings us to the element that really differentiates self-care and consumer healthcare from other categories. You must define, and use, the source of your credibility to do the job at hand. All brands need credibility, healthcare brands need it to the nth degree. Do you need pharmacists to drive selection? Do you need to dislodge a long-established brand leader etc? To do this you need to deliver your Moment of Trust- habit drives much behaviour, so consider how to ensure our relevant and distinctive offering is not just credible, but anchors this in the mind of HCPs and consumers. This can often in healthcare be driven by claims.

The symbiotic relationship between these 3 elements is never easily unlocked. We believe it needs specialist expertise. After 20 years working in consumer healthcare, skincare and wellbeing, we can say with confidence that when a brand unlocks its Meaningful Difference two things have consistently happened: sales go up and longer-term brand health is improved. … and that is purpose enough for us!

Creative Leap is a specialist creative consultancy working exclusively in consumer healthcare and wellness. Our aim is to help brands grow. We start by working with clients to unlock their Meaningful Difference. Your brand’s fightback can start here. Call or email us to talk Meaningful Difference.

David.Gray@CreativeLeap.com or +44 [0]207 549 0700