Wellness, the activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to wellbeing, matters to people but they are left wanting by a gap between their expectations and brand delivery a new study finds – here’s what you need to do.

The study is Ogilvy’s The Wellness Gap, which details findings from the agency’s online survey of 7000 people (aged 18-55) from 14 countries across Europe, Asia, Latin and North America.

Why it matters: Don’t think your brand is a wellness brand? Think again. If you felt burned by the purpose bandwagon, wellness is at least subtler and more proactive. Where purpose was often interpreted as an abstract social mission, wellness can be a more direct consumer benefit, whether for the individual’s wellness or that of their community. Effectively, Ogilvy observes, “wellness makes purpose tangible”. But those benefits must be credible and understandable for them to aid growth.

Of course, wellness is a big topic and though it is a big opportunity (anything that helps people to feel better), the more telling finding from the report is that people don’t feel that brands in wellness industries are doing all they should to help improve their wellness, even though that’s what they want. 64% of consumers say they would always prefer to buy from a wellness brand. 59% say wellness brands are worth paying more for.

So, as big a topic as it is, the main lesson is that people expect the brands they buy to help - everywhere. “Consumers are very clear about it”, the report states in its executive summary. “67% say there should be more wellness options, regardless of what they are shopping for. 52% expect categories like cars, banks or airlines to offer wellness options – almost the same score as the snack foods category (56%).

What’s a wellness brand?

The qualities of wellness, as it turns out, go beyond a contribution to nutrition and health and touch on productivity and resilience.

From these signals, Ogilvy tries to group these ideas into four categories of wellness:


This is possibly the main way in which people think about wellness brands, with the vast majority (86%) saying that the most important attribute of such a brand is to maintain their health. Three quarters note the promotion of an active lifestyle and good nutrition. People value brands that help them build resilience and strength.  


Now a mainstream topic of conversation, how a brand helps people to look after their mental health is a key marker of wellness, with 80% saying that helping to maintain a positive state of mind is an important attribute of such a brand. Around three quarters (74%) say wellness brands should promote harmony and balance, 71% say they should help lower stress.


Some wellness brands help people to feel connected. In the study, this aspect of wellness is noted by just over half of consumers, so we’re still in majority territory but less than others. What this means is that it’s quite new, boosted by the isolating effects of the pandemic. 56% feel wellness brands ought to help them care for others, and 53% say they should help people feel connected.


Purpose is core to wellness. 71% say wellness brand should help them make a difference in some way, and a similar proportion should help people feel they have made a good choice. Crucially, 60% feel a wellness brand ought to be good for the environment.

Naturally, this sounds like the sort of stuff agency gurus would be telling clients: just the latest fad. But consider a bank. For most people, money is the largest source of stress; read through a wellness lens, the bank’s job becomes less about rendering a financial service than that service alleviating their user’s stress. If the raw economics still matters more, that’s fine too: 59% of the survey agree they would pay more for such a service.

One problem is that respondents already recognise how wellness is fast becoming the new purpose (and not in a good way). This is for two separate but important reasons: first, that many (73%) customers now expect brands to have a wellness strategy, hinting at a certain commodification. The second is that they already expect brands to start wellness washing.

The lesson here is that it should be authentic and clear: customers should be able to understand wellness benefits.

What to do about it

Given the broad possibilities for involvement, it’s important to understand whether a brand has wellness embedded in its purpose (such as personal care or fitness brands) or whether wellness is embodied in the brand’s behaviours, which build credibility (think of a hotel brand that uses wellness as a way to think about customer experience.

Of course, given its growth, there’s plenty of scepticism about – not least from other brands. If you’re going to talk about wellness, you will be entering a crowded field that’s only going to get busier. The study recommends that you ask:

  • How does a wellness lens influence your customer journey?
  • Are visual and verbal cues meaningful and believable?
  • Are benefit claims evidence-based?
  • When describing less tangible benefit, is language evocative without being hyperbolic?

Sourced from Ogilvy