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Picture This

In recent years, our desire for health and happiness has begun to outweigh that for financial wealth as Western consumers make more conscious decisions to improve their quality of life in the face of the ongoing economic downturn.

This shift is gaining new momentum with the help of successful individuals like Arianna Huffington, who is making it a personal cause with the launch of the Huffington Post initiative, The Third Metric. Earlier this year, she publicly spoke out on our need to redefine success: “It is time for a third metric, beyond money and power – one founded on wellbeing, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give back.”

Positive Lifestyles

Economists and political leaders are also starting to evaluate a country’s status not only on traditional economic measures such as gross domestic product, but also by looking at ‘happiness levels’. For example, in 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron launched the National Wellbeing Project with the Office of National Statistics, asking citizens a series of questions to score the overall happiness of the UK. 

A study by JWT suggests that post-recession consumers are beginning to see the close link between health and happiness and shift their behaviour to be less hedonistic, instead focusing on more long-term health goals. This wellness concept takes a more holistic interpretation of health, while raising awareness of the lasting benefits of a positive lifestyle. Dr Ed Diener, an acknowledged happiness researcher and senior scientist for the Gallup Organisation, argues that wellbeing and happiness can indeed help people to achieve better results both at work and at home.

As scientists and psychologists point increasingly to the interconnectivity of health and happiness – and we learn more about how the pursuit of one is inextricably linked to the pursuit of the other – pharmaceutical and health-related brands are also starting to tap into this, by demonstrating how they can help individuals look for more meaningful lifestyles.

Meaningful Brands

In order to build sustainable relationships with their audiences, companies today need to focus on creating shared value in order to gain and maintain trust and loyalty. Havas Media has measured the state of brands and how they affect consumers’ wellbeing. Its Meaningful Brands survey found that currently only one in five brands that consumers interact with have a positive impact on their lives. Closing the current gap between people’s expectations and what brands deliver is not only good for the community at large and consumers, but also beneficial for companies’ financial results.

In particular, the online visual trends publication, Curve, found that organisations are increasingly using imagery to create an emotional connection with their audience, inspiring change in everyday habits and ultimately building long-lasting connections. A visual analysis of 2012 sales of Getty images identified a greater interest in imagery and video content depicting people enjoying a happy and healthy life, and spending time with family and friends. Pharmaceutical and health-related brands can capitalise on this trend by visually highlighting the shift to a more positive depiction of health in the imagery they use in their communications to consumers. The industry as a whole is moving away from the concept of ‘treating suffering’ and towards ‘boosting wellbeing’ as it looks to embrace this trend for a more positive conversation about health and medicine, using uplifting imagery to promote their brands and products.

Marketing Trends

Currently, the idea of connecting health and happiness is most notably used by fast-moving consumer goods brands. Danone adverts, for example, focus not only on the quality of the product, but also on the health-enhancing qualities which the ingredients can offer to consumers. The brand itself claims that “discovering, identifying and developing new ingredients that could promote health and wellbeing is our business”. Another example is Lipton Tea, which states that it is “committed to helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and wellbeing” with its Positive Drinking campaign. Pharmaceutical companies can learn from these brands and apply the same thinking to their own marketing.

Another key trend connected to leading a more meaningful life – and one that the pharmaceutical industry should take note of to help it build stronger bonds with consumers – revolves around the idea of taking time out of our busy lives to reconnect with ourselves. As we get more used to spending much of our modern lives ‘plugged in’, we are also becoming more conscious about balancing a new on-off lifestyle. Making the conscious decision to unplug gives people the chance to recharge. This is also reflected in sales of imagery connected to strong concepts such as balance, contemplation and freedom. Popular content, used in campaigns around the world, shows people enjoying time offline and appreciating the beauty of nature, which leaves them feeling rejuvenated, inspired and creative.

Holistic Health

The trend towards a greater interconnectivity between health and happiness is part of a wider shift in consumer attitudes towards developing sustainable lifestyles and bringing together people, profits and the planet in the aim to build a sustainable future.

As companies across all industries try to become more meaningful in the lives of consumers – who are looking to spend their money with brands that positively influence their wellbeing – health and happiness are developing into more important concepts in advertising and marketing for all kind of products and services. As a result, the healthcare industry needs to reflect a more holistic notion of health, underpinned with emotive and effective imagery. By embracing a visual language across all communications, pharmaceutical and health-related brands will align themselves more closely with their customers’ new aspirations and inspire trust and loyalty.


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Michaela Schwing is the Senior Manager, Content Strategy and the Creative Planning Manager for Getty Images in Europe. An essential part of her job is observing and analysing visual culture, looking at what lies ahead for commercial photography, advertising and media. She shares key findings with the Getty team of art directors and editors, who work with photographers and other contributors to create relevant and compelling imagery. Michaela studied photodesign and advertising in Germany and is currently undertaking an MA in Critical and Creative Analysis in the sociology department at GoldsmithsCollege,London.

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