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As natural products marketing firm BrandHive celebrates its 20th anniversary, co-founder Jeff Hilton talks about what’s changed in the natural products space.
By Jeff Hilton, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, BrandHive
This year marks BrandHive’s 20th anniversary as a branding and marketing agency dedicated to the healthy, natural, and organic space. Hard to believe it has been that long. In some ways, it seems like only yesterday that Matt Aller 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’m often asked how I think, from my vantage point, the market has changed over the past 20 years. From a marketer’s perspective, then, here are a few observations.
Less Breakthrough 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 when we started BrandHive, and sometimes I miss that freewheeling spirit and unquenchable fire.
More Product Science and Validation
There has been a very important and long-awaited shift toward more investment in human clinical research that is slowly but surely making a difference in the natural products 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 that karma will find its way around to bad players. But overall, the trend toward greater validation is strong and moving in a good direction.
Evolution of 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. Consumers 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. 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 sign of slowing any time soon.
Distribution Channel Lines Are Blurring
We as industry companies can no longer segment consumers by shopping channel. Consumers’ 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.
We Live in a Four-Screen World
The mobile phone, the desktop or laptop computer, the tablet, and the plasma video screen: these are the four screens in which we live today-and often, we use them at the same time. They don’t compete; they complement each other. They reflect and even create our life experiences. It’s surreal and a bit sobering, but it is the future. Marketers need to embrace that reality.
Since the early 1980s, Jeff Hilton has helped launch and revitalize brands promoting health and wellness. His passion and unmatched industry knowledge have led to innovative and successful marketing strategies that deliver results on time, on budget, and on brand.
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