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Socially Determined: How Brands Can Fuel Systemic Change
By Alexandra Hilker, Associate Director, Egg Denver
In the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, the state of collective health has been fraught with unprecedented uncertainty. An ever-present spotlight has amplified inefficiencies in how, when, and where we access the things we need to not only stay healthy, but to stay alive. In response, brands are taking impressive leaps in innovation. If necessity is the mother of invention, our post-Covid world can ignite new ways of thinking about the social determinants of health, with expanded offerings, unexpected partnerships, and new category creation that takes aim at the most persisting unmet needs.
Given this context, the Egg Health team has focused on tackling systemic health challenges—partnering with purposeful, empathetic brands eager to take a more strategic approach to what they build and who they set out to serve. When both individuals and companies are willing to take a stand, we can better uncover the path to
more compelling solutions.
Motivated by this mission and our collective expertise in this space, we’ve been thinking about why social determinants of health are so difficult to disrupt. Beyond ensuring our basic needs are met, social determinants include factors like economic policies, our physical environment, even social norms and status—all effectively hardwired into our outcomes. These are mighty structures, yet most evolve at a snail’s pace. According to the WHO, research shows social determinants can be more important than healthcare or lifestyle choices in influencing health,
accounting for 30-55% of health outcomes. Post-Covid, these gaps are primed to widen, and with them, we predict a host of social determinants will elevate in importance, creating opportunities for brands to take action. Here are a few ways we anticipate brands playing a role in addressing social determinants moving forward:
Pre-pandemic, loneliness was one of the fastest growing threats to health, and with lockdowns in place, the problem has ballooned exponentially. Researchers have found that loneliness is just as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. As we emerge from this moment, brands may play a role in combating this condition by creating more connective touchpoints that bridge online and offline. Papa is one brand targeting loneliness by pairing older adults and families with “Papa Pals” for companionship and assistance with everyday tasks. By bringing together
unlikely cohorts, Papa creates opportunities for learning across age and geographical demographics. And by cultivating unexpected relationships, brands can create more meaningful life moments that immerse consumers in the world that surrounds them. We all need to find our own “tribe”, and brands that imprint a true connection can create experiences that are as functionally seamless as they are emotionally inspiring.
Nature in Neighborhoods
As we look to restart our cities, a precious window of time exists to rethink our environments and how we develop physical communities that fuel better health. With expanding urbanization comes unwanted environmental consequences, including a deterioration of parks and green space. Research by the National Natural Science Foundation has examined the direct effects of green space on physical and mental health; helping to regulate microclimates, purify air, reduce noise pollution, and promote the quality of the residential environment. Brands play a driving role in causes like this by influencing the norms and values we uphold, and, in turn, the policy change that affects what our neighborhoods look like. As brands like Timberland pledge to restore more green space, we believe no brand can consciously sit idle. From sustainable production efforts to giving strategies, protecting our environment has a direct impact on how we protect the health and wellbeing of our neighbors.
Beyond the desire to impact the social determinants of health, how might brands approach these challenges in order to be effective? Here are a few jumping off points to impact tangible change.
For one, it’s time brands mobilize forces beyond their own four walls. By rethinking your competitor as a partner, the opportunity for shared knowledge and servant leadership can translate to profit. Take Allbirds for example—two years after open-sourcing their sustainable EVA foam sole formula for any competitive brand to access, the company raised $100 million at a $1.7 billion valuation. Turns out what’s good for the planet is good for consumers and investors alike.
From a more granular UX perspective, we predict that more inclusive development will not only be a persisting trend but become an ethical mandatory. More than just serving an unmet need, this requires deepening your understanding of target audiences. Get to know them within the context of where they live, work, and hopefully, play. Rethink features with more proactive design to make it more intuitive. Create experiences that can live both on and offline, in-store and in-the-cloud. Putting greater purpose behind your every product.
Live Out Your Values
It’s no longer just millennials or Gen Z that demand brand values, lending their loyalty to companies that stand for something. Having an ethos that underpins every product, every social media post, and every action, inherently creates an emotional tie that goes beyond the interaction with your product. It can be felt and remembered across every touchpoint of your brand. The challenge is carving out a reason for being that genuinely resonates with your consumer’s worldview, and more importantly, creates an organic connection to the product you have to sell.
As we continue to grapple with the battery of unpredictable challenges Covid-19 brought our way, we respond with surprising solutions. In this spirit, today’s consumer is more open than ever to rethinking aspects of life in order to maintain and protect their future health. But more than addressing temporal needs, the call to more purposeful action has been sounded, raising expectation on brands to create enduring value that broadens opportunity to wellbeing. Brands that can dig deeper to understand the myriad of consumers’ nuanced needs have the power to
shift the way we think, and in turn, can activate change. By uniting unexpected allies and carefully bridging old ways with new, we have the potential to broaden access to social determinants of health—creating meaningful solutions that disrupt zip-code destiny, one community at a time.
How can your brand impact the social determinants of health? From upstream audience illumination, segmentation and journey mapping, all the way to product development, brand positioning, channel & content strategy, and more, Egg Health delivers fresh thinking and actionable strategies built for better outcomes.