How Wellness Culture Has Altered Marketing for Both Agencies and Brands

It's not a space reserved for health, beauty and fitness companies anymore

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It wasn’t long ago that health was simply defined as the absence of disease in the body. Nowadays when we discuss health, what we’re really talking about is wellness, which provides a more holistic view of mind, body and spirit. Unlike the traditional definition of health, wellness isn’t just the absence of illness; it’s a way of living that considers an individual’s physical, emotional, intellectual, social, environmental and spiritual health. Today, living with wellness is superseding living in health.

The wellness revolution has already generated significant growth across multiple categories that haven’t traditionally played in the healthcare space. Startups and established companies alike have raised their profiles by telling brand stories through the lens of wellness. Whether it’s a cosmetics company only using ethically-sourced ingredients or an athleisure brand venturing into health-monitoring wearables, the wellness trend has spurred innovative ideas for solving age-old problems and has welcomed new players into a flourishing arena.

For consumers, the rise of wellness culture means embracing a personal sense of integrated wellbeing while, for brands, wellness culture is a disruptive force, causing many companies to re-orient their values to reflect those of consumers. After all, the wellness ecosystem is built to empower consumers over brands. As a result, if a wellness brand misleads or disappoints a consumer on his or her wellness journey, the offending brand probably won’t see that consumer again. But if that brand gives the consumer the help and support that he or she is looking for, all with a great experience, it will win.

And there’s plenty at stake for brands to win in wellness. In 2015, the global wellness market was estimated at $3.7 trillion, according to the Global Wellness Institute. (GWI will release new data this year.) Breaking it down, beauty and aging accounted for almost one-third of the market ($999 billion), ahead of healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss ($648 billion), wellness tourism ($563 billion) and fitness and mind-body ($542 billion)

Despite the enormous scale and opportunities in wellness, in 2018 we’re still using the same tried-and-true collection of verticals—food, beauty, fitness, etc.—to define a burgeoning wellness industry that reaches far deeper into culture, society and economics than what may be readily apparent. Perhaps marketers have overlooked—or failed to understand—the multidimensional context of wellness that goes beyond historically defined “health” products and services. There are huge opportunities for brands to be reimagined in the context of wellness while simultaneously creating better, more positive experiences for customers who have already moved beyond “health.”

Wellness in healthcare

After years of distancing itself from the shadow of pharma, it turns out there’s huge, untapped potential for reimagining traditional healthcare experiences more holistically. For decades, U.S. healthcare has meant administering pills and procedures, and little else. Rethinking the service design for healthcare can transform the experiences for both patients and providers, whether it’s creating more efficient hospital check-in processes (with lessons learned from high-end retail experiences) or utilizing electronic health records for doctors to better engage with patients and therapies.

Wellness as a lifestyle

The vast majority of consumer-facing wellness is focused on lifestyle. In most categories, smaller, emerging brands are finding opportunities to flourish over the behemoths. In fact, a handful of CPG giants, including Nestlé and Kraft, admitted in February that the demand for healthier options hindered 2017 growth.

For brands, wellness culture is a disruptive force, causing many companies to re-orient their values to reflect those of consumers.

The anti-aging sector, in particular, is booming. Orbis Research reported the global market for anti-aging products and services was worth $250 billion in 2016 and is estimated to top $330 billion by 2021. Creams, supplements, sprays, anti-wrinkle treatments and sleep aids appear to be the major areas of opportunity. Outside of aging, ingestible beauty products for nails, hair and skin are rising in popularity.

Recently, the food and beauty worlds collided spectacularly when cosmetics brand Bobbi Brown introduced its twist on the protein shake: edible, collagen-infused dessert packs.

Meanwhile, the largest growing fitness trend appears to be at-home workouts with expensive equipment, including the internet-connected Peloton bike, alongside live streaming instructor apps. The combination of personalization, convenience and access to instructors creates an experience that becomes worth the cost of the equipment.

Wellness of brands

The wellness experience doesn’t stop at clean products and positive experiences. Consumers expect brands themselves to be healthy, too. Ethics is the DNA of a brand and a measure of its wellness. Increasingly, consumers are choosing diets that align with their values rather than their fitness aspirations, so it’s crucial that brands are transparent about the origins and provenance of their products. Consumers often continue their research beyond packaging, looking for details of brand values, the sources of ingredients and the production process. For food brands, these details should be easy for consumers to find.

A host of companies have risen to prominence in the past few years for their ethical roots and behaviors. For example, clothing company Everlane changed the transparency game for garment manufacturing, using social channels to offer customers a window into its global factories, giving voices to the workers and providing a detailed price breakdown of each product.

What’s next?

Brands have an ethical responsibility to offer affordable, accessible wellness choices. Although the success of the category will continue to be measured by the performance of the brands that operate within it, true wellness cannot be attained using products alone. Instead, it requires the adoption of a lifestyle that prioritizes holistic wellbeing and requires products and services to support it.

Brands have an opportunity to design service ecosystems and create customer experiences that can make positive contributions to the wellness journey. Brands that ultimately rise to the top will be the ones whose efforts enable the greatest possible number of people to live balanced lives in mind, body and spirit.