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How are brands adopting wellness to engage with consumers?

Senior Creative Strategist, Ash Pickford, explains why brands are stretching into wellness.

In 2018, the media and retail landscapes are saturated with images of glowing, healthy-looking people flexing in athleisure and sipping organic cold press juices; with the global wellness economy now worth £2.9 trillion (Global Wellness Institute) it’s no wonder that many brands are trying to find their health and wellbeing credentials in order to capitalise on this increasingly profitable market.

As health and wellness become mainstream, inclusive and not limited by class, brands are increasingly stretching their offers in order to engage with these consumers.

An advert for Free People's wellness retreats
An advert for Free People’s wellness retreats

Stretchy brands

Free People, originally a fashion brand, is a good example of how to successfully stretch your offer. It’s gone from selling expensive bohemian clothes to selling luxurious wellness retreats for its yoga-obsessed customers. This seems like a natural extension for the brand as it has enabled consumers to live the lifestyle that they aspire to, and it aligns with the brand’s core values, not to mention being a profitable business decision.

A brand stretch into wellness activities is especially effective considering millennials are driving the experience economy. This has resulted in brands exploring and expanding their retail offer to include more wellness-based experiences; you can now get a spa treatment at Lush, take a yoga class at Lululemon, or go to an evening beauty treatment night with Sweaty Betty (fresh x Sweaty Betty).

But what does this mean for brands whose offer or purpose is not focused on health or wellness? Is it better to stretch your brand and your values or to remain authentic?

A treatment room at the Lush Spa
A treatment room at the Lush Spa

Be authentic

For consumers, especially millennials, authenticity is key. Despite the overuse of the term, with many brands adopting it as a marketing strategy, being transparent and offering a genuinely unique personality remains essential in order to keep a loyal consumer following. As Douglas Brundage VP of Strategy at Team Epiphany says,

“Brands should stop focusing on cold, tactical, self-promotional messaging geared toward garnering points on the ephemeral authenticity scale. Instead, they should rally around personalities. Focus on creating an interesting story and a unique aesthetic.”

So if a brand’s story is not centered, or within stretching distance of health or wellness, that narrative should not be forced; instead brands need to be bold and remain true to their purposes and the consumer will respect it.

A new balanced mindset

The consumer mindset towards health is shifting. Despite wellness extremes, like following a ‘clean’ or paleo diet, a new more balanced attitude is emerging. This new way of thinking is embracing of a more positive and sustainable lifestyle. As part of this consumers are enjoying moments of indulgence, and choosing to invest in quality and premium products during this time.

A modern-day mantra
A modern-day mantra

Drinks industry case study 

This ideology is having a particular impact on the drinks industry, as people move away from a hedonistic binge drinking mentality and are more conscious of their consumption. Ben Branson, founder of Seedlip explained, “The world is changing. People are drinking less, but better alcohol when they do.” In a report conducted by Protein, they deemed “45% of our survey respondents said that ‘high quality’ was the most influential factor when it came to deciding what to drink”. Quality is an important factor in this emerging mindset. But what else do these consumers value? What is their approach to wellness?

Well, it is about embracing imperfections and adopting a positive attitude towards self-worth. They are rejecting wearable ways of tracking fitness and health, opting out of quantifying themselves and their lifestyles, moving away from macros and body fat percentages, to measuring success by how they feel.

Non-alcoholic brand Seedlip
Non-alcoholic brand Seedlip


This movement has been dubbed ‘Healthism’ by trend forecasters WGSN. They describe it as an ‘anti-wellness’ movement and it is set to grow in 2019.  However, it could be argued that it is less about ‘anti-wellness’ but more about making wellness enjoyable for each individual. In essence, it is about having fun and breaking the wellness rules in order to achieve balance, health, and happiness. As the founders of Yoga for Bad People point out, one of the biggest obstacles to studying yoga is “adhering too strictly to rules” and that can certainly be applied to the way a lot of people see wellness.

‘Healthism’ has not only been adopted by sportswear brands, such as the Girlfriend Collective, but is becoming increasingly popular on social platforms and new influencers are emerging. For example, Jess, aka Planking for Pizza, encourages health and happiness through a more balanced approach to exercise and nutrition. Other influencers, originally popular during the start of the #CleanEating movement have had to reassess their brand and message; Clean Eating Alice recently changed her brand to Alice Liveing, her real name, due to ‘clean eatings’ negative connotations. Recently there’s been a backlash against the restrictive regimes that encourage the elimination of whole food groups from the diet, such as sugar, carbs, dairy and gluten, Ruby Tandoh’s now infamous vice article ‘The unhealthy truth behind wellness and clean eating’ sums this up.

Jess Pack, aka Planking for Pizza
Jess Pack, aka Planking for Pizza

Furthermore, with a sharp rise in ‘orthorexia’, an eating disorder that involves an obsession with proper or ‘healthy’ eating, there’s never been a better time for ‘Healthism’ to become mainstream and encourage consumers to embrace a balanced, more relaxed and positive approach to their mental and physical health.

Key takeouts…

So what does this mean for brands…

  • Do not stretch a brand’s purpose if it is not a natural extension.
  • Convey the brand’s unique personality and story.
  • Look to the experience economy to drive engagement.
  • Embrace this emerging mindset and the new approach to wellness.
  • Offer moments of indulgence that are of high quality and premium.
  • Be fun, playful and authentic in order to truly engage.

Discover more of our thoughts on wellness here.

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