In 2000, the new millennium was welcomed with great fanfare and hope that future success would mirror the unprecedented growth the spa industry experienced during the 1990s. Few could have predicted the dramatic changes the country’s economy, businesses and international status would endure because of the events of September 11, 2001, deep recession and environmental catastrophes. Even fewer could imagine the dramatic effects these events would have on consumerism and purchase decisions in the spa industry.
Sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson drew upon 13 years of survey research studies on more than 100,000 Americans, including 100 focus groups and dozens of in-depth interviews, for their book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World (Three Rivers Press, 2001). The book first identified cultural creatives as a group that cares deeply about saving the planet, relationships, peace, social justice, spirituality and self-expression. Ten years later, this group has grown in numbers and defines a vast, consumer-oriented movement called Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS). These leading-edge thinkers combine a serious concern for their inner lives with a strong passion for social activism.1
According to the Natural Marketing Institute, today, LOHAS consumers are mainstream, consisting of more than 30% of adult Americans who make their consumer choices based on how a business incorporates human values, environmental sustainability, and making the world a better place as part of their everyday beliefs and buying practices.
A new consumerism
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In recently updated research, it is estimated that the LOHAS consumer segment contributes more than $290 billion in U.S. consumer spending, of which more than 50% is spent in the category of personal health.2 In fact, this dynamic movement is redefining traditional marketing approaches in terms of the following.
- Transparency and corporate responsibility are far more important to consumers today than they were in the past.3
- Despite the recession, 75% of consumers believe social responsibility is important.3
- Fifty-five percent of consumers would choose a product that supports a particular cause against one that doesn’t.3
- Luxury brands are no longer important to affluent purchasers, or even relevant; neither is overall social status.3
- Economy and environment are top-of-mind when making purchase decisions.3
- Luxury consumers are avoiding conspicuous consumption in favor of brands that represent quality, aesthetics, authenticity, uniqueness and integrity.3
- Design and performance represent today’s prestige for high-end consumers.3
- A brand does not have to be expensive to attract customers.3
- Consumers are demanding a new and different kind of relationship from brands.3
- Consumers are seeking brand interaction based on integrity, authenticity and performance.3
According to the LOHAS Trend Database, 78% of consumers agree that it is important for companies to not just be profitable, but to be mindful of their impact on the environment and society. Knowing this, consumers are 58% more likely to buy their products and services; 55% are more loyal to that company; 47% are more likely to talk to their family members and friends about that company; and 28% are less concerned with the price of their products.
Triple bottom line
The idea of the triple bottom line is quickly becoming the mantra of the socially and ecologically conscious world. Traditionally, most businesses operate to achieve a healthy profit as their single motivation for existing. Under the triple bottom line principle, socially responsible businesses operate to excel in the areas of people and human values; the planet and the environment; and profit. As consumer buying patterns change and incorporate the new consumerism, businesses have changed and adapted to meet the needs of consumers. The spa industry is no exception as spa owners and managers continue to find new ways to attract new clients, retain current clients, and motivate and retain staff.
Marketing social responsibility
Today more than ever, local spas have a great opportunity to appeal to this new consumerism by supporting local, national and international charities that mirror their beliefs and ideals, and reflect what appeals to their clients and community. This socially responsible connection gives businesses a unique relationship with potential and existing clients, but it’s the ongoing, consistent marketing and reinforcement of this connection that ultimately solidifies a growth in business and helps tap into the LOHAS consumer buying potential.
The first order of business is to not only choose a cause or charity that reflects the interest and belief system supported by your spa, but also one that is noncontroversial that can foster a broad range of appeal. The benefit of a collaboration with a cause or charity is that it will help brand the business, whether that collaboration is passive or active. The more active the relationship, the more effective it becomes as a marketing tool for a business.
One of the most effective ways to actively market a cause is through monthly or bimonthly events in your spa. It is very important that they are fun, interesting and educational experiences. See All About Events. Consistently hosting these types of events will help build a loyal following and show tangible results for your efforts. Consider the following elements before offering your charitable event series.
- Carefully choose a category that your business should be associated with and that has broad appeal, such as women and children’s issues in the community.
- Research charitable organizations within the cause making sure they are well-run and have solid reputations. It’s best to find organizations that are smaller and more accessible, because businesses that align with large, recognizable national charities often do not provide direct and consistent access or local impact.
- Also, make sure to plan events for different audiences, such as business networking, wine tastings, blogger events and book reviews. The more varied the audience, the wider reach the word-of-mouth referral marketing will have.
Become a brand
Supporting a socially responsible cause will provide ample reasons for potential clients to notice you instead of your competition. It will further validate why your current clients come to you, and will promote loyalty and pride among your team members. The opportunity today for a spa to become a uniquely recognizable brand in the local community is greater than ever before. The economic troubles of the last decade have given way to a new type of consumer, and this consumer is looking to have a relationship and dialogue with businesses that offer integrity, authenticity and consistency in operating to the principles of a triple bottom line.
(All accessed Jun 1, 2010)