Welcome to the world of wellness, which is the philosophy that true health relies on the holistic care of the mind and body and that preventative healthcare is as important as treatment. As millennials age and become the highest spending generation, they are credited with driving the $4.2 trillion global wellness industry. But for every generation, wellness has become a part of life.
Recently, I listened to the audiobook Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich, which pragmatically critiques the ideas of wellness and preventative care. Ehrenreich ruthlessly confronts the fact that these trends have developed a bad reputation, including being labeled self-indulgent or reducing self-care to a glass of wine and a bubble bath.
Like many Americans, I have also made some recent wellness changes in my life, including the adoption of a strict exercise regimen, awareness of my physical health and a change in eating habits. I have found myself considering diets like vegan, vegetarian and the popular keto diet, something I had never before explored. From SoulCycle and mindfulness to smartphone apps and mail-in DNA tests, wellness has become one of the fastest growing spaces for new products and services.
But why have we started to take our personal health so seriously? The answer is simply that we know more about our health now than ever before. It’s long been known in the consumer marketing world that the prevalence of the internet has encouraged consumers to research and make decisions for themselves. This includes personal health and wellness choices. We know that improving our health at a young age has a major impact on our longevity. Our society has also begun to take mental health more seriously (for good reason, as Americans have some of the highest rates of depression and anxiety seen in our history), and the issue of mental health awareness has become a major focus on social media.
On the flipside, wellness has lost its original meaning in the world of marketing. Brands evangelize that they represent a holistic lifestyle or are part of healthy living even when their mission may seem to be the opposite of healthy. These tactics have become static noise that goes unnoticed and becomes a useless differentiator when leveraged incorrectly. When done wrong, aligning with wellness comes across as disingenuous and can have a negative impact on consumer perception.
So, what does this mean for brands? Trends come and go, but brands can latch onto the enduring effect of wellness and personal health. Whether you lead marketing for a CPG brand, a fitness product, a health or food company or something that seems unrelated to wellness, there are important rules to follow to connect with wellness seekers.
Don’t lean into wellness unless you represent wellness
Make sure that wellness and health are core to your product or brand and that they represent something ownable. Ensure your brand has defined how its product or service fits into a wellness lifestyle and has demonstrated that online or through advertising.
Focus on the science
Jade eggs may be a fad, but there is proven science around eating more vegetables, exercising and reducing stress. Instead of latching only onto abstract concepts, show how your products or brand ethos connects to reputable science (from peer reviewed science publications). Consumers are skeptical, and eventually, pseudoscience or stretching the truth will backfire and your brand will disappear with the fads.
Explore the concepts you’re promoting
Diluted concepts like mindfulness and holistic health have become somewhat meaningless, but they originally evolved from meaningful terms that came from spiritual practices and science. Instead of latching onto popularized meanings, advocate for specific ways that these unique concepts connect to your product.
Don’t be the bad guy
Our world is full of misinformation, alternative science and strange conspiracy theories. Be a responsible shepherd of ideas with advertising and try to stick to proven science.
Incorporate caring about the environment
Consumers increasingly care about the environment and sustainability. While promoting wellness, weave sustainability and reducing waste into your business mission and products.
Wellness and holistic health are not going anywhere. In fact, as more scientific studies support the ideas behind wellness and millennials get older, this way of thinking will only become more well-defined and widespread. While it’s up to brands to responsibly lead the way with wellness products and aligning themselves with a healthy lifestyle, companies should consider carefully before advertising themselves as part of the wellness movement.