Questions For Leading LOHAS & Engaging the LOHAS Consumer

QuestionsForLiving interview with Ted Ning July 25, 2012 regarding his questions for leading LOHAS, engaging the LOHAS consumer, and creating building collaboration between companies that serve LOHAS market place.

What, if any, questions were you asking yourself that originally led you toward a career in organizing and leading LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability)?

Ted Ning:  My path to LOHAS was not out of design. It's more that it evolved or was part of a divine design. I always wanted to be somebody  who is able to pull the best out of other people, or give people the insights to understand the potential that is in others and themselves . That's really the backbone, or the kernel, of what LOHAS is all about.  It's not necessarily about selling products or marketing services, rather it is about achieving potential. One of my primary questions has been, and still is, “How can I help people achieve their potential?”

Were there specific questions that you asked yourself during the time you have been leading LOHAS? If so, what were some of these questions?

Ning:  LOHAS was created about twelve years ago by a triangulation of three different groups. Initially Giaim, hired The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) to do consumer study to confirm their audience. NMI based their research on the work of Professor Paul Ray's studies on Cultural Creatives. During the same time, there was also a conference in Boulder called Natural Communications that focused on the business aspect of natural food and products. The conference was starting to attract momentum. So the founder of Giaim invested in the conference and  ultimately acquired it. It was this conference that morphed into the LOHAS conference. NMI now does annual research studies on consumer trends and one of their studies is on the LOHAS consumer trend. Eventually  Giaim went public, moving from a CD / DVD company to becoming more of a life-style media company. The conference has continued to gain momentum as the annual LOHAS Conference.

I have been involved with LOHAS for approaching nine years. In my role, I have been committed to my mission of helping people achieve their full potential. I focus on communicating the vision for what the LOHAS way of life is all about. I share examples and the possibilities of  what the LOHAS consumer is aspiring to be, as a society and as individuals.

LOHAS has been a great catalyst for promoting a lifestyle of health and sustainability because it can be what the consumer wants it to be; from a Clean Tech perspective it means "Clean-tech", from a social justice perspective it can means "Social Justice", from a health or yoga perspective it can focus on "Healthy Living". I am interested in all of these topics. However, there are some people who are really focused primarily on one of the topics and may not see the relationship between the topics. Having been to many of these events, I can see synergies between organizations. By seeing how the organization and industries relate to each other, I can help companies expand faster and achieve more to reach their organization's objectives. One question I ask is: “How can LOHAS members and sponsors best work together to achieve their common objectives?”

  Are there specific questions that you have asked yourself on a regular basis over the years, or that you continue to ask, that has contributed to the success, maintenance, and growth of LOHAS?

Ning:  One think I have learned about my role at LOHAS is that I am a learner and I need to approach my role with humility. To some extent I know my primary role and function, however on another level, I need to acknowledge that I really have no idea what I'm doing here and really listen to different people and really tap into my intuition. As I want to help individuals or myself achieve full potential, I need to ask: “What is it that will help this individual or myself move to the next level in terms of understanding that we are part of a greater whole?”

Also, I want to help individuals experience something truly special through LOHAS. There are moments in our lives when we have been totally inspired. These moments could occur with looking at a beautiful sunset, really hearing somebody in a conversation; it could occur listening to music or being with your children. There is this element that binds us all to this experience of pure bliss, and we have all had that. It is fleeting, but we have had it. So the question is, “What is it that causes that feeling, and how can I do that, or create that,  for other people?”

As a leader, I occasionally need to address situations that have created feelings negatively or concerns within the group. I have found that particularly in these times, I need to stay focused on helping people and the group achieve their full potential. With LOHAS, I think the ultimate goal is rather  focusing on the things that are going wrong, we as an organization need to focus on the things that are going right. LOHAS acts as a liaison to create the connections that will help the industry move forward in a positive direction. We ask “What are the ways that we can bridge between the different camps?”

Enabling all different groups or individuals to work together is another aspect of my role at LOHAS. There are many groups including big businesses talking about market opportunities and perhaps smaller companies that are very mission- oriented and focused on protecting their community and being part of the greater good. At times the different groups, or factions, may not like talking to each other. So what LOHAS is committed to is helping to build the bridges. Given the broad scope and scale of the LOHAS market, everybody is coming to it with their own story  at a different level. If we were to be "gatekeepers" or exclusive, we would miss opportunities to show what is possible. So at LOHAS, we need to be as inclusive to expose groups and individuals to the possibilities that are inspiring and will move them to change and shift. Cultivating the individual’s enthusiasm is much more motivational for creating change. That is one of the core concepts of the organization and specifically the conference.

As LOHAS, we focus on the participant and customer experience through added elements of surprise and curiosity. These experiences are not only about business,  but could include something that is humorous or beautiful. It is something that speaks to people at a human level and resonates with everybody. Through these elements of surprise and beauty, we add to our environment an element of understanding that we are all created equal and that we are all part of something bigger. This feeling of connection between each other and our environment breaks down some of the social bonds or norms that society puts upon us, and helps the individual make the connection to him or herself and their soul. That's the important thing.

What are some specific questions that contributed to the creation and successful growth of the LOHAS conference over the years?

Ning:  In the research for the conferences, I've been fortunate to have been able to attend many other events. From an event planning perspective, one of the key questions is “Which presenters can deliver good quality information, and also deliver it well?". Sometimes really great speakers and presenters are hard to find. I try to push the envelope regarding what the content is, as well as the experience of the attendee. I always go back to kindergarten and Sesame Street as my two base points. They have short, quick educational pieces that you can remember years letter. Adults and society are craving “Edutainment”. So with all the content, I feel that I am a teacher to convey or bring things together that people may not know about and try to give them information on something through a communal shared experience. In one blog posting ,I even equated the conference to  creating stone soup which is sort of how I see it. (For a link to the Stone Soup blog posting, click here.) I am the one who brings people together, but they are really the ones who bring the education, content and value.

What are primary questions that you ask that enable you to serve your stakeholders at LOHAS? 

Ning:  I think the biggest things that I need to do in my position at LOHAS is to empathize with the people and say "If I were you, what would I be thinking? "Why would I want to engage with LOHAS?" One beautiful aspect of my role at LOHAS is that of a match maker. In that sense , I get to know a lot of different people in a lot of different market areas doing a lot of different things. So I, and LOHAS in general, can help bring individuals and groups together to collaborate in ways they may not have seen before.

What are the primary questions that the executives and leaders within companies/organization within LOHAS market segment should ask to best serve the LOHAS consumer and Cultural Creatives?

Ning:  The best way to serve and market to the LOHAS consumer and Cultural Creatives is through two- way communications. The model has shifted so rather than a company just announcing something from the “mountaintop”, it actually more about engaging your customer base in a conversation. This two- way communication is what social media really has provided.

Also, right now, I see that the consumer is not as focused on the “greening” element of marketing, but rather the social  impact and how that is overlapping into the green initiatives. Customers are becoming less interested in profit of the company and more interested in asking: “What impact has this company had or done for society?” So in turn, companies need to start asking: “What  impact has my company had or done for society?”

LOHAS consumers are the early adopters who do a lot of research, testing and investigation regarding a product or service. If everything checks out, and they like the product, they are your best brand ambassadors. They are often the ones described at the "creative class" and they are always exploring and doing new things. They are the Mac users and also the ones who are leaders in social media. They are the people who you may have in your social circle who you go to ask their opinions on new products and services. 

There are studies that show the companies who are committed to their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives and mission do better over the long run than companies that don't focus on that. It is important that a company  engage in CRS not just for the sake of risk management, but also they should really let people know about it. Also, it's important being transparent by communicating, "Here is what we are doing really well, and not doing as well. Even though we are not doing this thing as well as we want to, we want to let you know that it is on our radar as something we are working to improve and we are trying. "Also, providing the customer with an opportunity to share feedback, such as "If you have any ideas for ways to improve our product or services, please let us know."

QFL:  Independent of your work with LOHAS, what questions do you believe that people should/could ask themselves to make our world a happier and healthier place?

Ning:  I think there are a couple things: first, try to remove “should”  from the vocabulary. This is hard but “should” is a word that initiates judgment. Second, is to also ask these questions: “What actions can I take now that will create a positive change?” and “What actions am I taking in my life that is harmful, and how can I change it?”

For more information, Ted Ning can be contacted at:




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