March 30, 2023

How to win the race as a wellness brand

Peyton Sutton

EVP, Client Partnership

“Raise your hand if you love to run.”

“Raise your hand if you love to run, but you wouldn’t call yourself a runner.”

This question taps into the vast difference between how the world sees us and how we see ourselves. How we identify ourselves is a complicated calculation of environment, self-worth, social circle, and circumstance. Never has that equation been more tricky than it is today. As mental health issues plague Gen Z more than any previous generation, and we live our lives through a digital reality, this complex calculation presents a complex challenge for brands: What does health mean to today’s consumers, and how can brands support consumers in their wellness journeys?

These questions also happen to be how Amanda Neil, VP of Global Marketing for Brooks Running and I kicked off our recent panel at the Ad Age Health and Wellness conference. We joined industry leaders from Delta, Hilton, lululemon, the MLB, and more to discuss how brands and agencies are meeting consumers where they are to become their best selves. Amanda and I took the stage to share Brooks’ health and wellness journey and how they have championed their runners while creating space to welcome new runners to the market.

If you missed the panel, here are three thought-starters you can run with:

Health is no longer two dimensional

The definition of what “health” means to the average consumer has evolved over time. If you asked someone 10 years ago what health means, you’d likely get an answer centered around physical health only – being fit, trim, athletic, and strong. Slowly, mental health began to permeate the psyche of the consumer. And now, accelerated by the pandemic, mental health has gained its rightful place in one's overall health assessment. Interestingly, Brooks has focused on a third dimension that comprises well-being: social wellness. Social wellness is an assessment of the circle of influence around us, measured by our ability to have meaningful and authentic relationships with others. 

This dimension of social wellness allows brands a meaningful opportunity to create an impact in consumer’s lives. In support of social wellness, Brooks has enhanced its focus on building and lifting up their community of runners – creating healthy spaces for community and conversation. Every brand has the opportunity to foster social wellness through a social presence that is inclusive, supportive, and positive. If social media and the metaverse are the future of human interaction, start thinking about the healthy environment you want to create in your brand’s social space.

Identifying your right to win

As Brooks opened their aperture to support consumers more holistically, it first looked inward to determine its right to win and where it could authentically enter the conversation. “Run Happy” has long been Brooks’ mantra – manifesting itself in championing runners of all abilities and backgrounds. To help foster more inclusivity, Brooks has evolved the definition of a runner to include anyone “who puts one foot in front of the other in forward motion.”

As we think about how that inclusivity shows up in the world, Brooks has engaged a wider range of influencers, creators, and talent to bring more diverse stories to life. Last year, we launched the Love Moves campaign to celebrate LGBTQIA+ love stories during Valentine’s Day and dropped a new shoe to support it. We asked creators to share their authentic love stories, and we celebrated their love all month long, along with making a donation to the charity of their choice. Brooks was able to authentically tell these stories because they had long supported the LGBTQIA+ community.

Take the road less traveled

Brooks recently launched their first-ever global brand campaign, It’s Your Run. Born from the insight that runners employ a variety of mental tricks to get themselves across the finish line, It’s Your Run shares the spotlight with those who do and do not self-identify as runners and celebrates all of the unique ways they get their run done. Brooks chose Stranger Things’ David Harbour as the hero talent for the campaign. Yes, that David Harbour. The one who has publicly struggled with mental illness, alcoholism, and whose ever-changing weight has been the subject of headlines. But his journey towards health was relatable and approachable. He was able to showcase how focusing on physical health supported his mental health journey and vice versa. 

David ultimately created more accessibility for Brooks and opened the brand up to a whole new audience that included not only runners, but wanna-be runners, walkers, fitness enthusiasts, and those who simply put one foot in front of the other in forward motion. He helped Brooks become a brand for everyone. 

While the definition of health and wellness has evolved for consumers, it has also created a different expectation for brands. In today’s environment, all brands are responsible for caring for the holistic wellness of their consumers. Every brand has the opportunity to create an impact in consumer's lives through product, innovation, customer service, and the purpose we create in the world. Thinking about our consumers as the whole humans that they are and caring for their mind, body, and spirit is critical to fortifying our brands for years to come.

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