In an industry reported to be worth over $4.2trn and growing exponentially, better informed, better educated and more empowered consumers are making their physical and mental health a priority. This has transformed the way they engage with brands and businesses.
It’s a trend that’s set to continue: 74% of consumers aged 18 to 34 say it’s important for brands to embrace wellness as part of their core mission, with 62% believing that all brands will need a wellness component to survive in the future according to research by Deep Focus.
Despite being an era of uncertainty and disruption, businesses across all industries are expanding their offerings to meet this unprecedented growth in demand, to stay relevant and cater for the shift in perspective from wellness as a singular goal to a status symbol and lifestyle.
The reality for marketers across a growing number of categories is that their brands are seen today as the cure, a prevention or the problem, begging the question of how we should be marketing to consumers in a new era for health and wellness?
Emotional advertising is key
For many, the pursuit for improved health and wellness is a journey. The goal could be weight loss, gain or maintenance, through to individuals looking to push their bodies to achieve a personal best, or just make it through their first 5k run. Whatever the objective, there’s a big opportunity for brands to become a partner on these journeys and in turn earn deep brand loyalty.
Rational and supportive reasons why consumers should change their behaviour just won’t cut it. Today’s consumers have increasingly high expectations for brands to not only know who they are, what they have bought and what content they have engaged with, but to go much further. To not only truly understand them and their personal ambitions, but to understand their mindset and create experiences that inspire, not intimidate.
Despite the controversy, Nike’s 30th anniversary ‘Just Do It’ campaign is a great example of this; real, inspiring and humbling stories of endurance that tap into the vulnerability of its audience. It’s this relatability tied in with messaging around self-drive and improvement that builds truly authentic messaging. The success of Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ came from a strategy that sought to liberate women from the fear of judgement that holds them back – sweating, jiggling, falling flat on their faces – and make them feel proud of trying.
The price of trust is transparency
As more brands look to adapt and flex to meet unprecedented growth, there’s clear caution. With a long history of generating false health claims and after years of promoting miracle workout regimes, low-fat junk food and constant emerging fads, the industry’s reputation may prove difficult to shake off for some. Consumers are sceptical of brand behaviour, with Shoppercentric citing 50% as saying that a lack of authenticity makes them likely to abandon a brand.
Consumers are doing more research and demanding more transparency in the products they buy. Beyond required label content, they want detailed insights into brand values, how products are sourced and production practices. If marketers don’t offer this information, consumers will seek it out elsewhere, leaving brands in a vulnerable position where third parties may own the narrative.
The same applies with selling hope in a jar; inauthentic brand adaptations or overly inspirational and staged images no longer engage or resonate as consumers become increasingly indifferent to markers of realness. Images showing real people outperform fake or staged ones as perfection fatigue begins to sink in. L’Oreal recently announced that it was now performing ‘background checks’ as part of a new influencer vetting process, weeding out fake accounts and over-styled content such as the post which earned Listerine unwanted attention back in early September.
A meaningful work ethic
Transforming the way we work is creating whole new categories of consumer needs for brands to cater to, based on the desire for flexibility, the pursuit of wellbeing, and the quest for self-improvement. Brands are no longer made by advertising alone, but by customer experiences and the creation of relationships that display the true meaning of a brand’s intentions.
Capitalising on wellness doesn’t just have to be about the overt implementation of a product or service. Unions have started to call for the introduction of a four-day week on the grounds that AI and machine learning capabilities can ease workloads, leading to reduced stress, better mental health and happier workforces. Introducing their ‘National 4pm Finish day’ and encouraging other companies to allow employees to finish early has enabled Red Bull to position the energy drink as the fuel that enhances productivity, so that people can “get down to more important business, like enjoying the weekend” faster.
Brands are now operating in the most health engaged era there has ever been. But the definition of health and wellness has changed; it’s now more complex and encompassing of the activity of all brands. How will your brand connect?
Maria Vardy is managing director of Jaywing.
At Jaywing, we’ve reimagined sports brands for today’s consumer, empowered audiences and jolted an entire nation to embrace health and wellness. Take our Health & Wellness supplement here.