Brandon Vetsch shares Target’s guest insights into the newly emerging culture of wellness
It’s long been said that humans are creatures of habit and, as such, it’s only fitting that we’re ‘cultures of habit’. What I’m happy to report is that our research indicates a cultural march towards better health and well-being. (Now we just need health outcomes to follow those intentions.) We see that more consumers are shifting their approach to what they eat, what they buy, and the activities they engage in–and that these trends don’t appear to be changing course in the future.
We set out to dig deep and really understand the context of our guests’ wellness journey. Where wellness comes about in their lives? What it looks like to them? What makes it challenging? Why they pursue it? And myriad other topics.
In doing this research, many of the guests we met with shared stories about growing up, the healthy behaviours which took place (or were absent) in their childhood home, and how these influenced the behaviours and attitudes they have today. Being brought up in a household that didn’t put much emphasis on health was, for some, a clear call to action to do better, whereas others just adopted the same approach as the one they’d grown up with. It became clear that habits and attitudes around health and wellness were strongly influenced by the first, and perhaps most impactful, cultural experience – their own family’s culture.
To illustrate this point, I’ll give a small example from my own childhood experience. When I wanted something to drink my mother would offer me water and, of course, being a child I always asked for juice. When my mother occasionally gave in to me, she would always water down the juice. She didn’t try to hide this from me (or, at least, not that I recall), but rather showed me that this was part of how juice was served. I still don’t know if she did this to limit my sugar intake, or stretch the juice a little further, or for some other reason. However, what I do know is that I continue to do this for myself and my own kids. In fact, I now even find most juices too sweet if they’re not watered down.
Our research revealed a lot about the impact of family life, both positive and negative, in the pursuit of healthier behaviours. We heard stories about partners who reinforced bad habits, despite their spouses trying to improve their health; a wife who started storing water bottles in a more central place in the house, resulting in better hydration and lower soda consumption for the family; and guests living in home environments that didn’t support their desire to be healthier. We discovered that while family dynamics can be a motivating factor towards a healthier lifestyle, they can also become a barrier to making improvements.
We also heard from guests about how they pursue healthier behaviours in their everyday lives. There was a very real acknowledgement that small steps were instrumental in leading to success, providing glimpses of tangible progress that could help to reinforce a behaviour and make it more sustainable over time. These small steps would often fit into existing routines and habits, like changing from white to brown rice, altering the way food was prepared to create healthier alternatives, or jogging a mile instead of walking.
However, despite recognising the importance of these regular small steps, it wasn’t always easy for guests to stick with them, as the frantic pace of everyday life often took over. Additional hours at work, taking the kids to extra-curricular activities, having to do household chores, plus many other daily routines and responsibilities – all too often these got in the way of carrying out the healthier behaviours.
However, if we really reflect on where these obligations come from, it’s often from a self-driven feeling that we’ve adopted from outside expectations, all of which are shaped and moulded by the culture we live in. So, as we recognise this cultural march toward improved health and wellbeing, can we begin to develop better habits that obligate our minds and bodies towards better actions?