This past September, Apple announced the launch of breakthrough wellness and fitness capabilities within its Apple Watch Series 6. Alongside communicating with friends and colleagues and accessing digital payment offerings, consumers will now be able to read their blood oxygen levels. We might not be able to imagine a better product—or sign—for our times.
A personal oximeter adds to a growing range of health-related features, including the ability to track our daily activities, count our steps, monitor our heart rate, deepen our sleep and improve our mindfulness. Apple and other digital product and service brands such as Peloton and Nike are seamlessly blending approaches to lifestyle with health and wellness experiences to create remarkably rich consumer experiences through a deep understanding of consumer needs and behaviors.
Beyond healthy distractions, these features are built on the premise that what we can monitor we can manage; and along the way, they help deepen our relationship with the brands who offer these innovative digital products and services.
Our Health and Our Wealth
In light of the global pandemic, consumers have turned their attention toward health and safety concerns. Beneath the surface of some of these breakthroughs, an emerging and underlying trend is the increasing interconnectedness between health and financial brands.
We have long seen the interplay of these two areas in our lives, and the past year is bringing their relationship to the fore. People with more access to economic resources have fared the devastating financial and life-threatening effects of the pandemic better, as financial wealth often determines and enables our access to healthcare services. With the potential that innovative technology provides, product and service brands are engaging with consumers through brand experiences that speak to both their financial and physical fitness. For instance, the Apple Watch allows consumers to access payment and financial services apps as easily as it measures and manages physical activity—all with a glance at our wrists.
Financial brands have long served as trusted confidantes, advisors and supporters in both our personal and professional lives. As technology has enabled greater connections—and intersections—and given rise to broader platforms, these brands have grown to play larger roles in our wellbeing that encompass much more than our finances. Today, financial brands hold the promise of providing greater access to the education and resources that lead to healthier lives. The data collected through these experiences help further personalize products and services for strengthened consumer loyalty.
Within this larger trend, we’re broadening what wellness means to us, growing to define more than our physical health. Wellness has come to encompass our mental, emotional, social and financial wellbeing as well as the health of the communities in which we live and work and the environment that enables and surrounds us.
Technology has helped financial and healthcare brands become close kin and play more central and multifaceted roles in all aspects of our lives. Not only are some brands becoming protectors of our financial security, they have become stewards of information and insight relating to our physical and mental health.
Habits Worth Repeating
More than consumer engagement strategies relying on dopamine-induced digital experiences and set-it-and-forget-it strategies, many of the fastest-growing brands in these categories understand the power of helping consumers form healthy habits and routines to create meaningful impact and engagement.
In a New York Times article To Create a Healthy Habit, Find an Accountability Buddy, consumer health columnist Tara Parker-Pope describes the power of creating visible accountability for healthy habits and behaviors. “If you want to make positive changes in your life, try building on a lesson many of us learned in 2020: Hold yourself accountable.”
Along with using friends, family and offline approaches to habit-building, Parker-Pope mentions the growing number of digital apps that help us in our quests. “An app is a great way to add accountability to your day. Meditation apps like Headspace and Calm will send daily reminders and track your progress. The weight-loss app Noom asks you to check in for a few minutes each day, complete mini-health courses and track what you’ve eaten. The Fitbit app counts your steps, will sync with your smart scale and vibrates to remind you to get up and move.” Alongside these health and wellbeing apps, an equally fast-growing generation of financial apps and services is helping consumers build healthy habits in regard to their careers, financial planning and management. Ultimately, these brands are helping us find purpose and meaning in how we spend our money and the impact our finances have on our lives. As author Gretchen Rubin wrote in Better than Before, we do better when someone’s watching—even when we’re the ones doing the watching.
Growing through Experience
Thanks to innovations in technology, more mobile, embedded and ubiquitous customer experiences have become a personal and integral part of our daily lives. In addition, brands are increasingly becoming broader platforms—and in many ways—true partners in helping us manage these critical areas of our lives.
By clarifying, simplifying and then amplifying their tangible benefits and intangible rewards, brands are creating experiences that empower us to cooperate, co-author and co-create, bringing us closer together more efficiently and seamlessly than ever before. And as technology innovation continues to transform products, services and entire industries, these same forces are also transforming the role and meaning of brands.
Ready, Set, Go
In a recent article for Inc. Magazine, tech columnist Jason Aten writes of how Apple’s growing health and wellness platform is what sets the company apart in delivering value for its consumers. Along with the company’s expanding ecosystem of digital products and services that provide unprecedented consumer experiences, Apple’s integration of its products and services in the mobile devices of more than one billion customers and Apple’s willingness to partner with “healthcare providers and researchers on everything from cardiac studies, to detecting Covid-19 up to a week earlier” has positioned the brand as a pioneer in this emerging category.
Aten notes that of all of Apple’s differentiators that help create its competitive advantage, it is their privacy commitment that proves critical to maintaining their leading brand status. “There's something to be said for a company that has built a reputation for protecting user data, which is of no small importance when you're wearing a device that is constantly generating data about what you're doing and how your body is reacting.”
When asked of what legacy he thinks Apple will leave, Apple CEO Tim Cook shared with Outside Magazine, “I really believe that if you zoom out to the future and then look back and ask, ‘What has Apple’s greatest contribution been?’ it will be in the health and wellness area.”
Our Livelihoods and Our Lives
Before the global pandemic, perhaps the highest order of what we might expect from brands was a great experience. Today, many brands offer us more, helping us manage both our lives and our livelihoods and measuring their power in how well they empower each of us. Brands have become both comforter and confidante, pushing us to set our lives in motion against unprecedented uncertainty while helping us forget about some of the details that often impede our progress and prevent us from living our best lives and being our best selves. In some cases, this means providing life-saving access, education and solutions for both our physical and financial fitness. In others, it means providing an intangible, yet no less essential, ingredient of hope—which is something we will always need.
This article was first published by Brandingmag.