Thanks to COVID-19, consumers are now thinking about health and wellness beyond the traditional definition of “eating healthy and exercising”. In this edition of Spotlight Australia, WARC Asia Editor Gabey Goh looks at how brands can tap this growing opportunity.

This article is part of a Spotlight series on how brands in Australia can tap into the growing opportunity in health and wellness. Read more

Consumers in Australia are increasingly looking for brands that will provide them with products and services in a way that feels like they are a good choice, good value for money and also good for the environment.

A Wellness Gap study by Ogilvy found that 77% of global consumers say wellness is very or extremely important to them. For 73%, wellness is now considered an essential element of a brand's strategy.

“Wellness has created new conversations, new expectations, new purposes – both for companies and individuals," said Benoit de Fleurian, Ogilvy’s global planning lead for health and wellness.

For brands that may not inherently occupy the “healthy living” or wellness space, or those that seek a greater share of mind within it – how can they build their brand and lean into this growing demand from consumers in Australia? What opportunities are there for brands to explore and leverage this growing shift towards more “healthy” branding in a post-COVID context?

Health and wellness issues are top of mind

Brands have an opportunity to play a more involved role by supporting consumers in their health and wellness goals. Data from research firm GWI, covering consumers in Australia, found that being financially secure, having a positive attitude and spending time with family topped the list of priorities. In addition:

  • Even though 70% of people value financial security, only 47% feel good at managing their money.
  • Nearly half (45%) of Australians feel comfortable talking about mental health.
  • Younger people experience more anxiety due to social media and struggle to discuss their mental health to a larger extent than people over 45.
  • Consumers between 45 and 54 are most likely to seek out alternative medicines and therapies (24%).

Take a breath before you jump on the wellness train

For brands looking to do more in the wellness space, contributors from the Australia Spotlight outline some key considerations that marketers must address before they jump in:

Brands are realising that change is here and are beginning to move beyond simple “use, reuse, share and repair” approaches. The fact is that any brand can contribute and make a genuine difference to the lives of their staff, customers and stakeholders. And because of this, wellbeing issues represent both an opportunity and a threat for nearly all brands. Doing well and doing good will require comprehensive and dedicated focus.

“Your wellbeing focus won’t always be ‘cure world peace’ or ‘reverse climate change’. Wellbeing needs to be understood at several levels – from the macro (addressing the big issues of the day) to the micro (helping an individual succeed in one tiny facet of their life),” write Moensie Rossier of branding agency Principals and Hamish Cargill of Principals’ brand voice arm XXVI.

“Brands have always been a signal to the world of the choices we’ve made and the values we hold. Now winning brands are finding ways to ensure those values include contributing to positive change while enhancing wellness too.”

It’s important to figure out why you have the permission to play in wellness, writes Linda Fagerlund, chief strategy officer at Carat Australia. Most consumer goods and services are adjacent to wellness to some degree but do ensure that your “wellness-adjacency” is close enough to your brand proposition.

“This allows you to credibly invest in your relevant areas of wellness to give your customers a true value exchange,” she adds. “The power of understanding your product and the role it can play in enabling wellness at an individual, social or cultural level can turn rational advertising into highly personal and emotive storytelling and experiences.”

Interests and passions have now become essential to the way we project ourselves and hope to be perceived by our friends, families, peers and networks – driven in large part by social media. The boom in wellbeing can thus be framed not only as a desire for improved health, personal betterment and self-actualisation, but also an arms race for social cachet.

“Whether driven by a genuine desire for betterment or by the more pernicious forces of social media, the wellness movement is probably leading to important social outcomes,” writes Luke Haynes, strategy director at M&C Saatchi FABRIC.

“It prompts the question for brands: Is the priority creating genuine positive change for the health and wellbeing of customers or the planet, or is it about telling the world that you share their passion?”

With many brands facing restricted spend and limited resources, building an allegiance or collective is the perfect chance to impact the customer’s daily life on a larger scale, gaining a greater share of mind and heart.

Companion animal health is a growing sector in Australia and provides a lucrative opportunity for brands to innovate within or connect to, argues Ogilvy Health’s client lead – health and wellness portfolio, Susan Coles.

In an omnibus survey commissioned by Boehringer Ingelheim (NexGard) in June 2020, nearly three-quarters of dog owners in Australia say that if there was a second lockdown due to COVID-19, they can’t survive it without their dog(s). And nearly two-thirds (65%) of Australian dog owners will be spending more on their dog’s physical health as a result of the pandemic and the easing of lockdown restrictions, due to their increased reliance and appreciation of their companion.

“If you are looking for an opportunity to collaborate and own wellness from a different perspective, I challenge you to look no further than the beloved pooch and build an alliance or community of mutuality for the greater good,” she adds.

While there’s a growing expectation from consumers for all brands to play a part in the health and wellness space, not all brands will be successful in meeting that expectation. Marketers must ensure that any venture is grounded in sensible business alignment backed by genuine commitment to make real changes for good.

Or risk any efforts being seen as nothing but empty virtue signalling.