With sugar very much off the menu, I can’t help but think that this will be a year focused on improving the Britain’s health.
We all make choices about our health each day. And the choices we make, day in, day out, have an impact on us as individuals – to our immediate wellbeing and our future health. But they also impact on society as a whole. We’re familiar with newspapers declaring a rising tide of obesity or branding us a nation of binge drinkers. But behind the headlines our lifestyle choices represent a huge cost to the NHS (estimated to be £5billion a year) as well as the economy.
Government and industry therefore have a shared interest in and a responsibility towards supporting healthier choices and improving the nation’s health. And by working together they can create an even greater impact, increasing the reach of their united messages.
In the case of Change4life, the anti-obesity campaign from Public Health England, this is already happening. Change4Life works with a coalition of partners, including many of the familiar brands and retailers people experience during everyday life. These brands amplify campaign messages and help influence positive choices at the point of decision so people start to choose healthier foods in the supermarket. To help us get more active in our communities, leisure organisations work to make it easier or cheaper for people to get active.
The Change4Life model proves these relationships work, and it would be great to see more brands lending their support to government initiatives in 2014 and beyond.
From the government’s point of view, partnering with brands is a shrewd move. Brands have invested huge amounts of time and money to build trust with their consumers. Establishing these partnerships enables the government to tap into that trust and deliver messages to consumers while they are at their most receptive, while being able to reach audiences not accessible through traditional media.
For example, by working with trusted retailers, NHS Blood and Transplant raises awareness of the importance of organ donation and drives sign ups to the NHS Organ Donor Register. A long standing relationship with Boots has resulted in nearly 1.4 million customers joining the register via Boots Advantage Card. National Transplant Week 2013 was supported by supermarket giant ASDA through the sale of a limited edition bag for life, and ASDA shoppers and staff were encouraged to sign up and share their organ donation wishes with their families through the use of online and in-store channels.
But it has to be a mutually beneficial relationship. What can brands gain from partnering with the government? Of course there's a perception benefit. That demonstrating brands – and collectively industry – can be part of the solution. But the real opportunity is for brands to identify where government health objectives can be embedded into their marketing strategies. They can become a catalyst for behaviour change, while highlighting a commitment to consumer wellbeing.
Aligning existing brand projects that promote healthy activities with government campaigns for health improvement enhances credibility on both sides and creates a common goal.
In the current, fiercely competitive market, where brand claims are under constant scrutiny and negative brand experiences can go viral in a flash, hard-won consumer loyalty can be easily damaged. Working alongside the government on health campaigns allows a brand to demonstrate its dedication to ‘doing the right thing’; playing a genuinely important part in the lives of its consumers, and proving that consumer trust is justified.