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Sun, Jul 20, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Targeting the pro-health, pro-green markets

Lifestyles of health and sustainability, or LOHAS, is a name coined by marketers for those who keep social and environmental issues in mind when they reach for their wallets

By Amy Cortese  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

LOHAS proponents build on research indicating that a cultural shift is under way that could have a significant impact on consumer purchasing behavior.

`Cultural creatives'

Paul H. Ray, executive vice president of American Lives Inc, an opinion polling company, has surveyed people about their values and lifestyles for more than a dozen years. He has identified an emerging subculture that he calls the "cultural creatives," a group, which Ray said, included 50 million people in the US and Europe. They are socially conscious, involved in improving communities and willing to translate values into action, he said.

Not surprisingly, the "cultural creatives" tend to overlap with LOHAS consumers.

"What you're seeing is a demand for products of equal quality that are also virtuous," said Ray, who is now co-chairman of an institute within the Global Academy, a nonprofit group, that focuses on long-range societal issues. Speaking of similarities between his research and that of the Natural Marketing Institute, he said, "You get to the same phenomenon regardless of how you get into it."

RoperASW, a research and consulting firm, figures that 16 percent of adult Americans are "green" consumers and that an additional 33 percent of the population can be persuaded to base their spending on their environmental values. The firm has also tracked consumers' rising interest in health and alternative medicine and in buying brands that are aligned with their values.

These studies suggest that companies may benefit from considering values as well as conventional demographics, like age and income, when trying to understand customers.

Changing mind-set

"This is a mind-set change for how companies and consumers look at products and services," said French of the marketing institute.

Rather than looking at discrete product categories like cars, he said, it is more important when dealing with the LOHAS market to look at the common factors linking diverse product groups.

The LOHAS Market Trends Conference, held in June in Broomfield, Colorado, drew nearly 450 people. Organized by Natural Business Communications, it offered business sessions punctuated with yoga classes and massages, and meals were planned by Mollie Katzen, the author of best-selling vegetarian cookbooks, including The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

Hybred fords

Though most of the companies represented at the conference were small or clearly identified with the healthy lifestyle market, like Patagonia and Tom's of Maine, there was also interest from corporations that are not squarely in that market.

Sheri Shapiro, the assistant marketing manager for the Escape sport utility vehicle at Ford Motor Co, was there to learn about the LOHAS consumer. When her team was researching the potential customer base for a hybrid version of the Ford Escape planned for next year, it kept running across the term "LOHAS."

"We didn't know exactly what it was," Shapiro said. So when she heard about the conference, she decided to attend. As it turned out, she said, "the values and attitudes of the LOHAS customers matched our own research."

Or consider Staples, the office products retailer. It didn't send anyone to the conference, but it has added more products with recycled materials and has promoted recycling programs at its stores for printer cartridges and consumer electronics products.

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