Social Listening Data: Millennials Redefine ‘Healthy’

By Michael Kwolek     |     February 10, 2017
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When clients come to us for social listening data, what we find is always illuminating. It goes beyond what people are saying about a particular brand, or which pieces of content are popular or buzz-worthy.
What we uncover are genuine marketplace trends: How consumers are ultimately shaping conversations, terminology and purchasing behavior. This is valuable to marketers and brands as we engage with our audience on a more authentic level, and deliver what it craves.

Here’s a great example: A research and traffic project for an emerging natural foods brand that included discovery about health-food trends. What we found was that the term “healthy” is in flux, and millennials are redefining what healthy means to them.

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Consider some of the “healthy” words we found through Crimson Hexagon research for our client. Happy, fun, want, and love — and sex — all make the cut. These highly positive, emotion-driven terms are meaningful to us as we try to understand what consumers are saying about “health food.” Today’s consumers don’t want strict, regimented, bland, puritanical health food.

Another portion of our research focused on the changing laws about labels and how brands can leverage that in a way that benefits them, and keeps them on the right side of the regulators.

For example, KIND bars got in trouble with the FDA over the use of the term “healthy” in its branding. The agency has a strict definition of the term, including that the food must have less than one gram of saturated fat per serving.

In response, the brand worked with the FDA to update what many believed to be outdated guidelines, particularly because data suggests that nuts are very healthy despite their fat content.

KIND also responded with customer outreach and a Citizen’s Petition urging fans to let the FDA know that its regulations need updating. This was a winning strategy: It created community, it resonated with what people think is “healthy” right now, and also reinforced the brand’s own message about its distinguishing benefits.

Not Your Father’s Health Food Definition

What can food brands take away from this exercise? The key is to keep listening to the data. If we know anything about food trends, it’s that they evolve constantly, and pretty quickly. Here’s what to know right now:

Consumers don’t care about what your brand thinks is healthy, or what their parents or conflicting research says is healthy. They have their own conversations about this, and it shapes what they buy, how they make food decisions, and what they eat.

Millennials are looking for real food, especially with indulgences like dessert or snacks. They are more willing to eat real, full-fat creamy ice cream in moderation than giant bowls of fat-free, synthetic frozen stuff every night.

Consumers are much more savvy about the information that is available to them about what is good for them, and what is unhealthy.

This part of the information age: Your brand’s tone regarding health food trends is important, but a few seconds on the internet will tell your audience more about you than you can. So be truthful and authentic.

 

Be honest and connect with your audience, fans and potential customers in a way that you can back up — and in a tone that is not condescending or false.

About Michael Kwolek

Michael develops insights and strategy to guide brand and marketing strategy, with particular expertise in the natural and organics industry, startups and the arts. He also has a passion for music making, world cinema and street food.

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