“Support first, sell second”: How brands must approach their wellness communications

As new research reveals the shifting attitudes towards wellness – and brands look to capitalise – Mind+Matter advises that only authentic and authoritative campaigns will cut through the noise.

“Support first, sell second”: How brands must approach their wellness communications

You would expect health and wellbeing to be hot topics during a global pandemic. But nobody could have predicted just how seismic the impact of Covid-19 would be on public attitudes to wellness – and on the brands looking to keep up with consumers.

A recent report by Mind+Matter, in conjunction with 3Gem, reveals a nation in flux, with 'The Impact Of Covid-19 On The OTC & Pharmacy Sector', polling 4,000 nationally representative UK respondents. There are many positives, with the data showing that most people are adopting a proactive approach to managing their personal wellness, taking charge of their own exercise, nutrition and mental health.

But there are points of concern, too. The survey reveals a marked drop in GP appointments (just 24% of respondents have visited in-person during Covid). Instead, 77% prefer to ask their pharmacist for advice – but the data still leaves a worrying gap that suggests people are turning away from professional wellness guidance altogether. In the long term – with people trusting in misinformation and forming bad habits – this self-sufficiency approach could be a hidden cost of the pandemic.

While self-empowerment is admirable, it’s vital that people also have the qualified guidance to make informed wellbeing decisions in the longer term. But where will this come from? The answer – based on the current landscape – could be brands. From coffee chains and car manufacturers, to supermarkets and even fast food companies, it seems no brand can ignore the subject of wellness and wellbeing.

Mind+Matter, an Ashfield Health company (part of UDG Healthcare plc), is an award-winning agency that combines proprietary data, a proven behaviour change methodology and emotive, award-winning creative to drive campaigns that result in positive change. Director Rebecca Fergusson believes there is a role for brands to play in supporting consumers in their wellness mission – if they do it right.

“It seems that everyone is, or wants to be, in the wellness business now,” says Fergusson. “But consumers are savvy enough to see through inauthentic attempts by brands to jump on the wellbeing bandwagon. If brands want to get cut-through in the ever-crowded wellness space, they need to learn from the businesses that have been supporting people’s wellbeing for years.”

With so much white noise in the Covid era, it’s vital for brands to make sure their wellness communications cut through for the right reasons. At a fundamental level, stresses Fergusson, promoting wellness cannot just be a cover for a sales pitch: any comms in this area should be of genuine help and support to consumers. “A key pillar of wellness communications,” she says, “is to help first and sell second.”

To combat misinformation and build trust, comms specialists should also place the voices of trusted experts at the centre of their wellness messaging, and here a partnership can work well, whether that’s Adidas highlighting the emotional benefits of running, LinkedIn Discuss: #Fertility At Work, or the success of the Dave TV channel's long-term collaboration with CALM. Meanwhile, with a recent Ipsos Mori poll revealing that politicians, marketers and journalists were the professions least trusted to tell the truth – while medical professionals were highly trusted – it makes sense that the benefits of the UK vaccine roll-out have been backed by first-hand factual evidence from scientists. “Providing genuine, qualified expertise,” says Fergusson, “is crucial.”

Some brands have already established their authority in the wellness sphere. As the leading UK wellness retailer and the ‘best place to go for vitamins and supplements’, according to Kantar Brand Tracking, Mind+Matter’s client Holland & Barrett was well-placed to deliver authentic wellness comms at a time when 20% of survey respondents reported buying more vitamins. But even if you don’t have this kind of backstory, says Fergusson, the most effective wellness communications come from brands who can demonstrate a true company-wide commitment and values that chime with the cause. “There’s already a proliferation of health advice out there and people find it hard to know who to trust. So, brands need to do more than just talk the talk. They need to walk the walk, too.

“At Mind+Matter, we use our CHANGE methodology to help our clients do just that,” Fergusson explains. “This methodology combines proprietary data, with our proven behaviour change model developed with the University College London’s Centre for Behaviour Change, and compelling creatives. This process ensures that the campaigns we create make a powerful difference to people’s lives, whilst having a tangible impact on our clients’ reputations and bottom lines.”

Mind+Matter is an award-winning agency that aims to bring data and emotion together to drive behaviour change. Find out more here.