Health-Bent: How consumer brands can deliver wellness in the face of COVID-19 and beyond


It’s not news that the health and wellness category is booming.

In 2019, long before the threat of Coronavirus cast its long shadow over our lives, the global health and wellness market’s estimated value was in excess of $4.2 trillion with no sign of slowing down. And while we might all soon begin to categorize our lives into the years before and the years after COVID-19, it is obvious that the growth in health and wellness will be further propelled by this global phenomenon.

Prior to soap and hand sanitizer becoming the new precious metals of our society, we were already giving more attention to, and spending more money on, our personal health and wellness. We evolved from thinking of healthcare as a point-in-time solution for an injury or chronic illness, to a daily, conscious pursuit of better physical, mental and emotional health. This holistic view is in large part responsible for the pre-COVID era category boom. It opened up the doors for industries like beauty, technology, and fashion to get involved. Today we have everything from personal fitness trackers and biometric-monitoring clothes to sleep-tracking mattresses and circadian lighting.

While we cannot fully understand the full scope of the economic, societal, political, and personal changes the COVID-19 pandemic will bring, we know it will have an extraordinary impact.

The health and wellness category will continue to grow, and more consumers will develop an interest in it.

People may more intensely appreciate the fundamentally essential role many consumer package products play in our lives. But tried, true and trusted brands will need to stay close to their consumers for two main reasons:

  • Faced with out-of-stocks in so many categories, consumers have been trying alternative brands and they will expect their favorite brands to strike the right value equation.
  • The health and wellness bar will rise for many products and product categories. Consumers will reward those brands that help them on their wellness journey.


Amidst this turbulence, there are a few key things people will demand and gravitate to:

1. Brands, products & services that respond & adapt to prevailing conditions

Now more than ever, people are being forced to change the way they go about their daily lives. While many consumers find comfort in the tried, true daily product essentials, they expect brands to be stepping up, adapting during these times, and offering them what is relevant now.

Papa John’s has started to talk about some health and safety aspects of their brand, some of which were in place before the crisis – it just wasn’t as relevant to convey. For instance, given that pizza comes out of a 500-degree oven, it is safe to assume that Papa John’s employees were not touching pizzas straight out of the oven. But the fact that no pizza, once it’s cooked, is touched by human hands, is worth mentioning now as an important reassurance of safety. They go a few steps further. You can order online and specify contactless delivery. You prepay and the order is left on your stoop. A quality seal is applied to the lid of the box, so you know it’s not been opened.

The actions Papa John’s and many brands and businesses are taking in these times are consistent with what we are seeing in our Brand Asset Valuator study, the world’s largest and leading empirical study of consumer brand perceptions. A comparison of data from Q4 2019 (Pre-COVID) to Q1 2020 (COVID) shows some of the largest uplifts in desired attribute importance, across all brands are:

These numbers reinforce that consumers want and need brands to be smart, adaptive and responsive to current conditions.

2. Brands that help them with what they’re dealing with

Today, people are dealing with COVID-19 and all of the ancillary fears and stressors: health concerns, caretaking issues, working from home, economic anxiety and more. Even before the outbreak, consumers needed help reducing stress in their lives and finding ways to slow down. Before the pandemic, worldwide searches on Google for “anxiety” were at an all-time high. Imagine where they are now?

Even before the pandemic, the CDC had declared sleep disorders a public health epidemic. Also, before COVID-19, the number of people looking for anti-anxiety products was forecasted to grow by 24% within 12 months. Something tells me we might blow past these projections. There are many ways brands can help.

Meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm have seen an uptick in usage since COVID-19. They are now launching new features and even partnering with local governments to meet increasing demand.

Nike’s training app, Nike Training Club, is now free to anyone and encourages people to “play inside, no matter where you are.”

People know they need to decelerate and destress. They know physical activity is good for them. They have goals they want to achieve. Does your brand care about them enough to truly get in touch with what they’re dealing with? And then ask: how can we help? There are opportunities for brands that do.

3. Brands that engage in relevant ways

 Within health and wellness branding, there is often only one note that gets played and it is played in the key of “E” or “Earnest Sincerity”. As we know to be true, authenticity and reliability are important, but at the end of the day, a health and wellness brand is still a brand. And brands must do a few things to be truly vital.

They must create and leverage a distinct identity with what we call “sacred brand assets.” Think of all those eyes looking for the visual language they associate with their brand when scanning store shelves, hoping against hope, that there wouldn’t be another empty shelf. A strong and compelling visual brand language can help consumers locate the brand more quickly and make it resonate more deeply.

Consider Kellogg’s, a brand that amplified its core equities with a captivating visual language. In order to reinforce key strategic equities as the provider of natural grain goodness, Kellogg’s reclaimed key iconic assets. This has allowed Kellogg’s to regain leadership and stand out from the rest.

A health and wellness brand should also offer compelling experiences and content. We find ourselves in a unique moment when brands that lead with deep, personal connections can win the hearts and minds of consumers who need them. In these days of isolation and beyond, people are hungry for little escapes that capture the imagination, and support them throughout the day in the many roles they are balancing.

Lego is giving science lessons to homebound kids. They are repurposing their existing #ExplainWithLego content for children being homeschooled with topics ranging from “How do Volcanos work?” to “Why do we have seasons?”

Brands should seek always to be interesting in relevant and authentic ways. Have a personality. Develop a tone of voice. Consider the sonic aspects of your brand. These are every bit as important as the visual symbols.

Vicks brings the idea of ‘Breathe On’ to life with an animated logo taking a deep breath, accompanied by the sound of just that, all of which work together to reinforce key brand equities in a really intuitive, meaningful way.


So, CPG marketers, take heart.

Know that even during a crisis, there are products people want and need, indeed that they even cling to. Amidst all the anxiety, stress and confusion, many of the things that people rely on and take comfort in day in and day out end up being the brands with which people surround themselves. And these consumers will continue to look to these same brands to help them achieve their health and wellness goals.

Find ways to be your consumers’ partners on their journey. Strive for meaning in your consumers’ lives. If you do, your brand will remain relevant during a crisis, as well as during all the humdrum, routine, glorious moments as well.

Can’t wait for those.