The brands capitalizing on the wellness opportunity are entering a category that is seeing rising affinity among shoppers, even if regulation is lacking. But as the wellness economy matures, the trends businesses latch onto today may shift, thereby diminishing their relevance. Just as likely, new regulation may impugn the very premise these brands are founded upon, poking holes in the mission and health benefits they advertise to consumers.

This Playbook provides actionable questions and directives for consumer brands in the wellness category to flourish in the long-term. It accompanies our Report, Wild, Wild Wellness: The risks and opportunities of operating in lawless territory, which advocates cultivating trust and transparency, establishing durable marketing techniques and using mission to guide manufacturing and scale.

Trust and Transparency

Without standardized testing or regulation to speak to brands’ credibility, wellness or wellness-adjacent brands need to focus more heavily on establishing a foundation of trust and transparency vis-à-vis shoppers.

Often, wellness-oriented brands foster trust and transparency with the help of scientific research or other institutional endorsements. Though enacting their own tests and studies can have questionable ethics, these efforts help fill the regulatory void and hold other brands accountable, working to raise standards across the industry.

Build transparency and trust

  • Who speaks for your brand and endorses its health benefits? What makes this voice or these voices trustworthy vis-à-vis your customers? Are they ideal voices for building trust with your specific target audience? Do they have the potential to expand your customer base beyond this core audience?
  • How open with your customers are you about your formula, product benefits, manufacturing process, supply chain, long-term vision for growth and scalability, etc.? Where can you embed more useful information about your brand and mission to satisfy knowledge-hungry shoppers?
    • How can you use this information to market your products? What rhetoric is most likely to connect with shoppers? How can you enhance your transparency efforts over time in order to mature your brand and strengthen your relationship with customers?

Establish credibility and accountability

  • Do you outsource research for your products or do you perform this research in house? Is there a way to involve a third-party in order to enhance the integrity of your brand in the absence of standardized testing and comprehensive federal regulation?
  • How can you evolve with accountability at the forefront of your business to shield your brand from vilification down the road if new institutional standards emerge? How can you ensure integrity across research and development, production and supply chain to raise the bar for your company’s overall operations?
  • How can you use the absence of scientific regulation as an opportunity to set rigorous standards within the wellness industry and hold other brands accountable?

Durable Marketing

All consumer brands use marketing to convince shoppers that their product is best-in-class, but brands in the wellness economy operate in a liminal space where they must find a way to prove the efficacy of their purported health benefits, often without scientific substantiation. Because so many brands sell products that claim similar benefits—energy, glowing skin, immunity—and overlap in ingredients—collagen, probiotics, antioxidants—using FOMO or customer reviews to spark interest is a common practice companies use to achieve consumer buy in.

Identify what differentiates your brand

  • What do you highlight in your marketing—ingredients, production, mission, supply chain, health benefits, customer reviews, institutional or celebrity endorsements, etc.? As many health-conscious brands utilize similar ingredients and pledge similar benefits, how can you ensure that your advertising speaks to what makes your brand unique?
  • What is your brand’s mission? How can you market this mission without focusing heavily on cause and effect, which is difficult to prove without standardized scientific testing and because customers are likely to see individualized results?

Include non-corporate voices

  • How can you strengthen the credibility of your brand by including specialist opinions in your advertising?
  • Consumers already discuss products both within and external to the wellness industry on social sites and forums such as Facebook and Reddit. How can you capitalize on a shopper-to-shopper dialogue about your products in order to self-promote? Where do your shoppers discuss your brand and like-minded brands? How can you establish regular surveys on these platforms to help inform your advertising strategy?
  • How can you replicate your transparency efforts about product and manufacturing in your marketing? How can you be more forthcoming with consumers about who is endorsing your products and what your relationship to this person or these people is?

Capitalize on curiosity while building for longevity

  • How can you use marketing as a call to action, inciting consumers to purchase and try your products?
  • How can you capitalize on FOMO to sell your products?
  • Products in the wellness space are often framed as trends. How can you strategize a marketing strategy that allows your brand to surpass viral status and become an established, durable company?

Purposeful Manufacturing and Mission-Guided Scalability

Prone to trend-driven virality, wellness brands must work harder to stay relevant for longer. Establishing harmony between mission, growth, scale and supply chain will help shield wellness-oriented companies from a quick rise and fall—a strategy that necessitates thoughtful manufacturing and purposeful scale.

Use mission to guide production

  • How does your mission align with your production process and supply chain? Are there spots in the supply chain where you can further harmonize the two?
  • How can you market this manufacturing technique in a way that speaks to your core customer? How can you use it to market beyond this core customer?
  • What timeline of product drops correlates best with your mission? Do your customers expect thorough research and development, allowing for less frequent releases or is it more important to release a new product every few weeks? Is this sustainable in the long run?
  • How does spurning modernized or mass production affect your value prop? How will this value change over time as your company evolves?
  • How does embracing tech-driven manufacturing and/or distribution affect your value prop? How will this value change over time as your company evolves?

Scale with purpose

  • How does your mission align with your current scale and plans for future growth? How can you use your mission to guide future growth instead of the other way around?
  • Is there a natural cutoff for how large your company can grow while remaining true to your mission? Is maintaining a smaller operation actually a more accurate and effective manifestation of your brand? Are there alternative avenues for growth that will preserve brand identity in the long term?
  • What retail strategy will best preserve your brand identity and purpose?
    • Especially with the inundation of new wellness brands on the market, what mix of wholesale versus owned retail versus direct-to-consumer will be most effective for brand growth, while staying true to your mission?
    • Which wholesale partners will most closely align with your brand identity?
    • How can you work with your retail partners to allow sales associates to speak for your brand most effectively?
    • If you operate owned retail, how can you establish wellness experiences related to your products or value system that allow your staff and/or customers to participate in health-conscious activities and directly interact with your brand?
    • If you are a retailer, how can you hold your wellness brand partners accountable and enact a set of guidelines or standards that help them meet health and transparency expectations?
  • How will raising capital affect your trajectory? How can you limit fundraising in order to ensure that your mission stays in tact as your brand evolves?