Why are so many brands hopping on the wellness treadmill, and do customers even care?
Weight Watchers has relaunched as WW. People are still going to call it Weight Watchers – ‘double u double u’ is a phonetic nightmare, and ‘wuh wuh’ makes you sound like a baby. So why?
With the aim of moving beyond the plate to becoming your wellness partner. WW isn’t the only brand looking to cash in on the wellness trend this year. Gwyneth Paltrow has just brought her first Goop store to the UK and she’s in rich company. The global wellness market has been valued at 3.7 trillion dollars, but has eluded massive mainstream exposure until recently.
So why now? Well, those millennials your colleagues constantly moan about now command the majority of today’s market. They comprise over a quarter of the planet’s entire population, and now they’re all grown up and have real spending power. Heritage brands and once-exciting propositions have to shift their focus to appeal to the health-focused wants and needs of their largest customer base.
Take Apple. Its launch event last month saw its Watch’s health capabilities cranked up a notch, with the Apple Watch Series 4 boasting an electrocardiogram – the world’s first over-the-counter ECG. The watch is becoming a genuine health device, rather than just a nifty tool you use to pretend you’re a spy; given that millennials and Gen Z-ers combined account for 69 per cent of all fitness wearable owners, this a massive statement of intent for Apple. Its past few years of launches have been ceremoniously dull – a man desperately willing his phone to unlock with the power of his face being 2017’s highlight – and while this year’s by-the-book keynote wasn’t exactly white knuckle, this new angle proved that Apple is getting onboard by plunging into the wellness market.
And Apple’s not just getting away with that because it’s Apple. There’ve been plenty of high-profile launches that’ve bombed due to lack of consumer interest and brand relevance. Virgin Vodka – come on, Richard. Apple has successfully made its move at the intersection most relevant to its brand – where technology and health can successfully collaborate for the benefit of its customers.
Wellness is not going away, so brands need to see how they fit into it. How they appeal to that new generation, while in the same breath not alienating customers who just want, well, stuff.
Panasonic’s flight arm, Panasonic Avionics, recently launched an excellent example of this in practice. Its new wellness in-flight suite includes five features from an app that helps with jet lag to personalised inflight lighting. Whether or not you’re a health nut is irrelevant – nobody likes jet lag, and this helps sort you out and sync your body up to the best of its abilities. By launching into an already captive market, rather than ‘just’ targeting millennials, brands have so much more to gain.
But it’s not always the right way to go. Just like any movement or trend, you get bandwagon-hoppers – launching for the sake of launching without any forward thinking about what they want to achieve from the move. If brands are launching into wellness, there’s got to be a reason for it beyond a quick cash-grab. They’ve got to retain their core brand identity while opening the floor to other customers. That’s why Apple’s move is so genius – it appeals to its existing wellness customers, alerts other customers to its wellness capabilities, and has the potential to gain the custom of wellness enthusiasts previously unimpressed with the brand’s offering.
It can also be flipped on its head – there’s ample opportunity to influence customers by acknowledging a trend and rallying against it. Sofa brand Burrow recently debuted a ‘Couch Potato’ app – opposing the fitness and wellness trends, it rewards users for doing nothing, staying true to its original messaging in an obviously tongue-in-cheek way. This isn’t a brand cashing in – Burrow has seen that it can objectively be the ‘nemesis’ of wellness, playing for laughs in a market that takes itself very seriously.
Ultimately, people will always buy things, whether they’re concerned about their chi or not. Wellness is not the be all and end all of commerce, and it can’t be forced into a brand where it obviously doesn’t fit. But if there’s a way of working wellness into a brand, à la WW, rather than altering the entire DNA of the business, then it stands a much better chance of remaining relevant for years to come.
Alexis Eyre is head of marketing at launch specialist agency Five by Five.