Let’s Speak Religion in Nutrition Marketing

By Max Gonen, Manuela Boghian, Sahra Rosenkvist, Oleg Trofimov

The health and wellness industry seem to be in the midst of a new wave of young engaged consumers whose purchase choices are defying existent marketing logic. These consumers are engaging with their food choices with a conviction that evokes comparisons to religious devotion. So how can brands and companies connect with them?

In February 2018, the Healthy Marketing Team presented us with a challenge. They told us their ideas about “The Church of Healthy Eating” and tasked us with illustrating what this church represents, who believes in it, and how companies seeking to strengthen their brand positions in this new era can earn a place in it. Through this project, Healthy Marketing Team have provided us with an extraordinary research experience and their understanding of culture as a fundamental factor in consumer choices was something that we could build our results on.

Studying consumers by becoming them

In an increasingly digitized society, where information moves at lightning speed, in order to study consumers, we had to become them. So our team of cultural analysts; Manuela Boghian from Romania, Sahra Rosenkvist from Turkey, Max Gonen from USA and Oleg Trofimov from Russia – set out to explore the world of beliefs surrounding food choices. We did so by diving into social media pools, by shopping, eating and sitting with our international group of informants in cafes and markets. We interviewed informants in groups and individually, and documented feelings, stories, habits and preferences.

The four Gods of the Pantheon of Healthy Eating

In doing this research, we broke down our data into categories of Rituals, Myths, Narratives, Symbols, Practices and Affective components from which cohesive belief systems emerged. We followed the threads and the result was creation of four segments of belief which, in keeping with our religious narrative, we personalised by ascribing them to various Greek gods:

Athena, goddess of Ethics,
Athena represents the believers preoccupied with animal rights, global harm reduction, planetary justice and similar ethical convictions.

Aphrodite, goddess of Self-Care
Aphrodite represents those who believe in investing in oneself’s health and wellness in connection with bringing healing and beauty into the world;

Apollo, god of Science
Apollo represents believers who see their choices as personal, rational and rooted in knowledge and a desire to optimize their performance

Hestia, goddess of Heritage
Hestia represents those who approach health through connecting with history and cultural heritage.

Bond with your target audience: Help them do good!

This segmentation tool allows brands to focus on the belief commonalities and differences and position themselves along the divides and intersections to create bonds with their target audience.

In doing this research we learned that though health and wellness have extremely personal meanings, there is a shared desire to do better, to make better choices, and to spread the good word about the companies and products which enable consumers to do so.

How will your brand help consumers to do good?

Would you like to learn more? Download the Executive Summary, and/or connect with Max at max@thehmt.com to learn about how to apply this framework in your brand and innovation work.