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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

"We are really taking a look at sustainable business practices and what our social and environmental commitments are and how we convey that to customers," said Mark Buckley, vice president for environmental affairs at Staples, based in Framingham, Massachusetts.

As more large corporations introduce environmentally friendly products or acquire organic brands, they often find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

Mass-market

"Companies realize they have a different kind of customer, [with whom] conventional selling strategies are a complete bomb," said Ray, at American Lives. Large companies, he added, "are used to thinking in mass-market ways."

People in the LOHAS crowd tend to be well-informed, discerning and skeptical of advertising claims, the institute says. Shapiro said she would think differently about marketing to this group.

"There might be different strategies and tactics to market to them," she said, like advertising in health and lifestyle publications and aligning the marketing message with LOHAS values.

"Whether it's vitamins or hybrid vehicles, it's the common values that really tie together all of these products," she said.

That is where LOHAS comes in. Tying them together makes sense, because "it's helpful to define an industry," said Lynn Powers, president of Gaiam, which sells products like organic cotton sheets, yoga tapes and solar panels through its catalogs and Web sites.

Still, the conference on LOHAS illustrated how unwieldy a concept it can be. In the main exhibit hall, makers of healthy candy bars, meditation videos, energy turbines and therapies labeled as cancer cures promoted their wares side by side.

Frank Lampe, the editorial and conference director at Conscious Media, which owns Natural Business Communications, acknowledged that LOHAS might be too sweeping of a term. His company is refining its definition of the LOHAS market and may drop some categories.

"We've tried to get too many things into the space," he said.

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