Wellness Branding: Building a Brand That Rises Above
The wellness category is rapidly growing and transforming, with a vast number of brands shaping the wellness ecosystem. Start-up brands are changing the game and altering customer expectations. Segments are converging and new ones are being created. Brands are expected to not only impact the wellness of people, but of society and the planet. With so many wellness brands competing for the consumer’s attention and share of wallet, it can be a struggle to build a brand that rises above the noise. Amid the ongoing acceleration and transformation of the industry, there are however, proven strategies that can help you win the minds and hearts of consumers. When it comes to building a brand that people love, a solid wellness branding strategy is the starting point.
Five Brand Building Characteristics of Great Wellness Brands
We believe great wellness companies deliver on five foundational brand characteristics particularly well. And these wellness brands don’t just check the boxes one time and move on. Brand marketing teams see these strategic branding characteristics as an ongoing process requiring oversight and commitment. Here are five key brand building elements that all wellness brands can learn from.
1. Define and live your brand purpose
Purpose matters more than ever, propelled forward given the health, social and economic events of the past year. Consumers are demanding that brands add value beyond the products and services they sell, and they expect brands to actively take a stand around the important issues of our time.
But while purpose is essential for any brand today, just having one as part of your wellness branding foundation is not enough. Stakeholders are calling out brands who say one thing and do another. Great companies live their purpose fully. They’re clear about the value they create in the world—and this value transcends what they sell. They integrate their purpose into every part of the organization, and use it to guide their decision-making and actions.
By way of example, Sweetgreen is a purpose-led pioneer in the Cafe & Restaurant space. A strong food ethos and investment in local communities have enabled Sweetgreen to scale its healthy salad concept into a national brand. With a new partnership and investment from tennis pro Naomi Osaka, along with a bid to become carbon neutral by 2027, the brand continues to marry profit with purpose to propel its growth.
2. Align around shared identity
Great brands today find new and positive ways to tap into and connect with people’s sense of self. They meet consumers where they are, instead of trying to force them into the story a brand wants to tell. Creating a relatable yet aspirational brand identity cultivates consumer trust in an era of skepticism.
Today, building a brand requires putting values, not visual identities, front and center. This plays into the larger movement of conscious consumption – where brands are making clear not only their purpose, but how they live up to it. The clean beauty movement is a good example – with brands like Beautycounter and Tata Harper demonstrating that consumers shouldn’t have to sacrifice their own safety for beauty.
3. Create a compelling brand story
Stories draw us in and help us to connect to brands on an emotional level. A good story also sticks with us when making decisions. But a core brand story also motivates employees, defines company culture, and provides a vision to attract investors and define future product development.
Every strong brand has a great story to tell. A story that touches the heart and is easily remembered. The basis of effective brand storytelling is a framework that underpins virtually every story to ever gain widespread adoption: The Hero’s Journey (a framework that we’ve employed very successfully at Trajectory on behalf of our client’s brand building efforts). The Hero’s Journey structure was first outlined by comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell in his work The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
But telling your brand story is only half the battle. Because words are far less important than actions, given that consumer relationships are built from every one of a brand’s individual actions. Connected fitness brand Tonal provides a great example of articulating and delivering on brand story.
4. Cultivate community
Effective branding is all about creating connections. And this is an extremely important concept in wellness given the importance of “we” in achieving goals.
By tapping into consumers’s sense of their own identity, brands build a connection with their audiences. Brands that achieve fanatic-like status create a sense of connection not just with their consumers, but among them too. Think of forerunner WW (formerly Weight Watchers), and more recent examples like fitbit, Goop, Lululemon, Peloton and Soul Cycle, to name just a few.
A camaraderie forms among people who love the brand, which creates its own energy and propels the brand forward even more. This sense of community further fuels people’s affinity for the brand, creating a virtuous cycle that strengthens loyalty among the group.
5. Proof through science
Wellness consumers are looking for quantifiable proof, not puffery. They want support and solutions in credible and convenient ways. And they’re becoming bolder in questioning and researching claims.
Across media, experts and the masses, people are demanding that a brand’s buzzwords and unsubstantiated claims are replaced by trustworthy, transparent and conclusive communications and that products actually “do what they say.” Case in point is Seed Health. The new microbial sciences company is championing “consumer life science” and positioning consumer knowledge as something to be worn as a badge of honor.
A recent report by Vice magazine revealed that more than half of young people will seek science-backed information more than they did before COVID-19. And a third will rely more on mainstream medicine in contrast to alternative medicine, seeking out facts and figures and making data-backed decisions.
Final Brand Building Thoughts
As the wellness category continues to grow and transform, and as competition gets fiercer, it only becomes tougher to cut through and gain attention. At the same time, customers are demanding more from wellness brands.
Success begins with a solid wellness branding foundation. As ideas hit the market faster and faster given that technology has lowered the barriers to entry for everyone, the difference in success largely boils down to brand.
Consumers are asking brands to become true partners on their wellness journey. And that’s a huge opportunity for brands to accelerate growth by becoming customer partners in navigating their wellness journey. If they get their wellness branding right.
Since 1999, our hybrid brand consultancy / marketing agency has worked with clients across the health and wellness continuum – partnering with them to unlock the potential of their brands to leave their mark on the world. Reach out for a no-obligation consultation.