Food Marketing: The importance of the body’s defences in times of crisis and their relevance for marketing

Rochus Winkler, concept m

Which are the various effects on our body’s defences that people ascribe to vitamins, restoratives, a healthy diet, or products like Yakult? What are the pitfalls food marketing has to take into account and which are the potential limitations it has to avoid? concept m’s Rochus Winkler addresses these questions in his article.

From a psychological point of view, the wish for our bodies to have strong defences is much more multi-layered and richer in internal tensions than a superficial assessment might suggest. The term “body’s defences” implies that in our life, we are constantly facing different experiences, attacks, and stress – not only on the physical level but also on a superordinate mental level. This topic has become ever more important in the exhausting ongoing fight against the coronavirus. In addition and due to the current situation, gyms remain closed and many people can’t exercise like they used to, which makes them feel “unfit and uncomfortable”. At the same time, the world of advertisement often presents daily helpers to us that can boost the body’s defence systems and – like Kijimea – and are meant to save us from embarrassing moments of weakness.

We have to use our own – physical and mental – strength and hold our ground in the face of these “threats” that we perceive. In today’s world, which in the eyes of many is marked by crises, reinforcing our assertiveness seems to play a major role.

Various functional images can be relevant in this context. Based on a series of studies on the respective products we know that people ascribe various effects on their body’s defences to vitamins, restoratives, a healthy diet, or products like Yakult, like:

  • General improvement of the physical and mental well-being by vitalising or reviving the spirits
  • Toughening and immunisation against negative external influences, along the lines of ‘nothing can harm me now’
  • Stimulating functions that help cleanse the body of unnecessary elements and protect it from outside influences or deal with them in a healthier way

These are just a few of the functional images that are crucial for consumers on a psychological and physical level. At the end of the day, these levels are closely intertwined: When you think your body has been cleansed and vitalised, you also feel stronger mentally.

Which topics can marketing turn into stories? 

  • The topos of a healthy gut flora first addressed in advertising is evidently linked to popular images of balance, helping the consumer to tackle the daily challenges in a more balanced and strengthened way.
  • A certain degree of closeness to the effect promise of vitamins is relevant in this regard, too. Consumers are taking in special vital components to join the body’s defence ranks and boost their overall well-being.
  • A (medically inspired) idea: People describe that the activating or defensive mechanism only works when they take the products on a regular basis. Taking them only occasionally or often forgetting to take them can make the effect disappear. This idea increases the motivation for using the product regularly, but it can also act as a barrier for “beginners”.
  • More often than not, users are more or less consciously ignoring the modes of action of these products. The supplements become like a symbol which they use to show that, in principle, they want to eat healthy and that they have modern, active, and health-conscious attitudes.

What are the pitfalls food marketing has to take into account and which are the potential limitations it has to avoid? 

  • Evidently, too narrow a medical interpretation in the communication can have a restrictive effect on the ‘usage indication’. The food products in question also face competition from other highly dosed ‘remedies’ like vitamins and minerals and might not be able to emerge as winners in a direct comparison.
  • It is, however, also difficult to only include a reference to the “body’s defences”. Repeated too often over a longer period of time, the term can become a superficial buzzword void of real meaning. In the long run, this can give users the impression that the effect is portrayed in an exaggerated way.

It is central to communicate the benefits for the “body’s defences” by combining plausible functional images with attractive stories about active well-being in times of Covid. This way, the benefit can make the product stand out from competitors in a long-lasting, sustainable way.

For further questions please contact:

Thomas Ebenfeld
Managing Partner

Rochus Winkler
Managing Partner

Dirk Ziems
Managing Partner