2016 marks BrandHive’s 20th anniversary as a branding and marketing agency dedicated to the healthy, natural and organic space. It's hard to believe it has been that long. In some ways it seems like yesterday that my business partner and I hung out our shingle. But it has been and continues to be a wild, crazy and fun adventure, and I am grateful to be part of such a vibrant and authentic community.
I often get asked what has changed over the past 20 years from my vantage point. Maybe I could summarise a few observations here to share my perspective?
1. Less breakthrough in product innovation. Not to open on a down note, but I miss the days of wide-eyed optimism, when companies in our industry were run by founder entrepreneurs who championed new technologies and ingredients, put profits back into their companies and believed in the power of their products to help people and deliver real health benefits. My point is not that these giants are not still out there, but frankly there are fewer of them. Our industry was less politically correct two decades ago, and sometimes I miss that free-wheeling spirit and unquenchable fire.
2. More product science and validation. This has been a very important and long-awaited shift toward more investment in human clinical research, and is slowly but surely making a difference in the marketplace. Consumers and retailers are demanding proof of concept, and that is a good thing. Shame on fly-by-night companies that spring up to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers and then make off with the profits. Part of me believes karma will find its way around to them. But overall, the trend toward greater validation is strong and moving in a good direction.
3. Evolution to Consumer 2.0. The consumer landscape has turned completely upside down. Control is no longer with the marketer. It is now in the hands of the consumer. They have all the options. They hold all the cards. And social media has given them strength in numbers. They are indeed empowered beyond what any of us imagined. So we deal with it. And we play the game their way. Baby Boomers have disposable income and they want to not only live forever, but be healthy forever. Millennials want to make the most of life now and are increasingly active in their pursuits, fueling growth in the active nutrition market, which shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.
4. Distribution channel lines are blurring. We as industry companies can no longer segment consumers by shopping channel. Their purchase activity is fluid and crosses traditional lines. There is no longer a health food store shopper. There are, however, health-aware consumers who shop wherever they need to in order to meet their health and nutrition needs. Loyalty is dead.
5. We live in a four-screen world today. The mobile phone, the desktop or laptop computer, the tablet and the plasma video screen are king. And we often use them all at the same time. They don’t compete. They complement each other. They reflect and even create our life experience. It’s surreal and a bit sobering, but it is the future. Marketers need to embrace that reality.
Jeff Hilton is partner and co-founder of BrandHive, a prominent healthy-lifestyle marketing and branding agency celebrating 20 years working with dietary supplement, functional food and beverage, and health and beauty brands nationally and globally. He brings 35 years of advanced business and marketing insight to his clients, and has been recognised by Advertising Age magazine as one of the nation's Top 100 Marketers. Hilton is also a recipient of Nutrition Business Journal’s (NBJ) Personal Service Award in recognition for his ongoing outreach efforts, including editorial contributions, pro-bono work, webinars and speaking engagements within the healthy lifestyles industry.