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Every Brand Is a Wellness Brand Now: TBWA’s Backslash Reveals the Cultural Shifts Defining the Next Wave of Wellness

October 07, 2020

Debut Magazine ED\GE Explores Wellness, from Sleep to Sex to Silence; Releases 10 Wellness Cultural Shifts Accelerating and Emerging from COVID-19.

TORONTO and LOS ANGELES; October 7, 2020 – Backslash, TBWA’s cultural intelligence unit utilized by its agencies globally including Toronto-based Juniper Park\TBWA, has released ED\GE, a new magazine that explores the next wave of Wellness. ED\GE unpacks the evolving $4.5 trillion-dollar global wellness industry by exploring its main shifts, pre-COVID and during, with an eye toward helping brands understand the role they can play as consumer behavior and attitudes change. The digital edition of ED\GE can be viewed here – it is Backslash’s first-ever magazine.

“One of the lessons we have learnt this year is that our collective well-being is pivotal to our own. No matter what industry you work in, wellness matters and should be a priority. The last ten months have only made this clearer,” says Dustin Rideout, Chief Strategy Officer at Juniper Park\TBWA. “As outlined by the amazing team at Backslash in ED\GE, we believe that every brand is now a wellness brand, and that they have a role to play in democratizing access to all of its facets as it becomes mainstream.”

The magazine's five overarching conclusions are as follows:

1. Wellness is going back to basics

A phenomenon preceding but accelerated by COVID-19: we’ve come to trust scientists over influencers; bleach over essential oils; nature walks over gym memberships. We’re rediscovering the value of simple public health practices like hand-washing over complex surgical procedures. This will force the wellness industry to address our basic needs first and foremost.

Global online searches related to epidemiology are up 80% since November 2019, catalyzed by the pandemic. “How to become an epidemiologist” has consistently been taking over “How to become a brain surgeon” in search queries over the same time period. (Source: Google Trends, August 2020)

2. It’s “Wellness & Health,” not “Health & Wellness”

Curative healthcare, however sophisticated, can only do so much. With comorbidities linked to increased COVID fatalities, the pandemic is making us all realize that it’s better to stay well than wait for illness to strike. Increasingly, a wellness-promoting lifestyle will be our priority, while health treatment becomes plan B.

3. Wellness with a capital W

Wellness used to be supplemental, superficial, unproven—turmeric in your latte, essential oils. But wellness is growing up: the next wave of wellness will be legitimized by science and elevated by institutions. To win over remaining wellness nonbelievers, it will have to prove that it works.

Vitamin purchases have declined by 8% since the crisis started, suggesting we are prioritizing more proven remedies. (Source: OMNI, advanced audience data)

4. Wellness is getting political

Pre-pandemic, class rage was a brewing battle between the 1% vs. the rest of us, signaled by the canceling of elitist wellness brands like Peloton and movies such as Parasite. But COVID, alongside the Black Lives Matter resurgence, has exposed and created greater divisions in health and wealth. In the U.S., mask-wearing has become a new culture war. And self-care is reclaiming its activist origins. The next wave of wellness will demand “Access for All” and brands will champion democratization.

5. Wellness is our new global religion

We’re looking for control in an out-of-control world, and wellness is providing a new order. In a post-truth, increasingly secular world, wellness is now the place people are turning to in order to find meaning, belonging, guidance and hope. While religion used to fulfill our spiritual needs, wellness has taken its place, emerging as a holistic solution that serves our mind, body and soul. In a polarized, COVID-ified world, wellness is something we can all believe in.

Sarah Rabia, Global Director of Cultural Strategy for TBWA and the Editor in Chief of ED\GE said, “Before COVID— or ‘BC’—wellness was one of the world’s biggest, fastest-growing and least understood industries. But avocado toast, fasting, athleisure and being shouted at while sitting on a $2k stationary bike are mere saplings compared to what’s on the horizon. This next wave of wellness will converge with the medical and brand worlds. Treating illness and optimizing well-being will become part of the same system, one that extends beyond the self to the planet. We are redefining ‘Holistic Health.’ In fact, we may need new language to describe it. Wellness will still be sold in smoothies, but it will also become a science.”

Content within ED\GE includes interviews, data visualizations, portraits and more, featuring a balance of pure editorial, alongside some tangible 'What if' implications for brands in key categories. Stories include Business of the Body: how Body Hacking is the 21st century’s DIY biology; New Audiences of Wellness: Yolo boomers, Gen-Ziety, Clean Freaks and Fempowered Activists are redefining wellness for all; The New Coming Out: how menopause is being rebranded as the best time in a woman's life; Cottagecore: A youth subculture that fetishizes nature, accelerated by COVID and TikTok; a Wellness Timeline, from 3000 B.C. to now; an inaugural list of 10 Wellness Disruptors who are leading the new wave of wellness; and much more.

To put together the Wellness magazine, TBWA drew from its global spotter network of more than 250 strategists and creatives in 45 countries within the collective including members of Juniper Park\TBWA’s team; conducted desk research and interviews with more than 50 doctors, VCs, semioticians, authors and teenagers; and utilized proprietary research from sibling agency Hall and Partners. The magazine’s articles were authored by individuals within TBWA’s Backslash team. The publication has been shared with Juniper Park\TBWA clients and employees to inspire and shape their thinking, communications and actions.

The magazine also highlights top Edges accelerated by COVID-19 and top emerging Edges post-COVID. An Edge is TBWA’s word for a cultural shift or cultural value that helps brands identify insights and opportunities. Edges also provide direction on evolving cultural, consumer and category behavior.

Top 5 Edges Accelerated by COVID-19:

  1. Helicopter Tech: Everything is watching you. Governments, brands and devices are turning into “helicopter parents” — or worse, monitoring your every move.
  2. Get Mild: Gen Z and millennials are denying the stereotypes of wild youthful transgressions. Rates of drug use, drinking and teen pregnancy have all fallen off a cliff as a generation opts to play it safe
  3. Frugalicious: Frugal is the new sexy. People are looking to spend less and look good doing it, with penny-pinching apps and FIRE retirement goals. For many, the pandemic made it essential. Frugal doesn’t mean cheap. It’s a lifestyle choice that allows people to do more of what they love in the face of economic uncertainty.
  4. Indie Health: Alternative health isn’t on the sidelines anymore. It’s gone mainstream and is complementing and sometimes competing with traditional medicine on efficacy, accessibility and price. With the corporatization of healthcare, a simpler, patient-led, indie approach to staying well is gaining traction.
  5. Zero Out: From always-on to the “Time of Off,” welcome to a reflective new era. Sleep is the new Adderall. We’ve overstimulated to the point of detachment, and now we’re collectively hitting the pause button to reconnect to ourselves. Nothingness is a new ideology we’re embracing—from zero waste to silence at work to “JOMO,” and we’re creating new language to sell the benefits of zero. Absence is the antidote.

Top 5 Emerging Edges Post-COVID:

  1. Neo-Animism: Should animals, land and rivers have the same rights as humans? A growing global movement says yes. 40% of the world’s population is “animistic”—the belief that all things have a soul. With the rise of eco-activism and veganism, we’re entering a new moral frontier that challenges the dominance of capitalism and humanity itself.
  2. Wacko World: We’re all weird now. The absurd, inexplicable and plain silly have become common vocabulary in memes, fashion and marketing. This is a reaction to overconsumption and logic and signals a desire for the unique and irrational.
  3. Travel Right: From carbon footprint-shaming and overtourism laws, to taxes on international air travel, the pre-pandemic world was taking action to deal with the damage of thoughtless travel. Now, with many people staying close to home, local destinations are gaining steam. Coupled with new ecotourism and micro-travel movements, consumers and businesses are working together to establish a new moral compass.
  4. Work-Life Boundaries: Work defined us, but we’re losing our religion. Say goodbye to work-life blur and hello to drawing the lines. People are starting to put work in a box that’s separate from the rest of their lives and decouple passion from paycheck. You are not your job anymore. We’re looking for purpose elsewhere and new ways to self-actualize.
  5. Homebody Economy: COVID-19 has made homebodies of us all and transformed a millennial, DC2-led sector into an economy encompassing every industry. From restaurants to hotels to hygiene, it’s at-home or bust — for good.

About Backslash

Backslash is a cultural intelligence unit powered by global advertising agency TBWA\Worldwide that monitors cultural shifts around the world and translates them into business opportunity for brands. Backslash is shaped by more than 250 agency creatives and strategists who monitor emerging and evolving trends that directly impact society, consumers and category behavior. Each cultural shift enables Backslash to codify a change and identify insights and opportunities for brands. For more information on Backslash, follow us on Instagram at @TBWABackslash or www.backslash.com.

About Juniper Park\TBWA

Juniper Park\TBWA (juniperparktbwa.com) is The Disruption® Company: the cultural engine for 21st-century business. A global, award-winning agency located in Toronto, Juniper Park\TBWA uses Disruption® methodologies to develop business-changing ideas for brands. The 160+ team of world-class creators and thinkers serves clients across North America, including CIBC, Nissan, PepsiCo, GoDaddy, GSK Consumer Healthcare, Intuit, among others. It is part of TBWA Worldwide (tbwa.com), named as one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company in both 2019 and 2020, and to Ad Age’s Agency A-List in 2019. Follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, or like us on Facebook for the latest updates from the Park.

About TBWA\Worldwide

TBWA is The Disruption® Company: the cultural engine for 21st-century business. Named one of the World's Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company and Adweek's 2018 Global Agency of the Year, we create disruptive ideas that locate and involve brands in culture, giving them a larger share of the future. Our collective has 11,300 creative minds across 275 offices in 95 countries, and also includes brands such as Auditoire, Digital Arts Network (DAN), eg+ worldwide, GMR, The Integer Group®, TBWA\Media Arts Lab, TBWA\WorldHealth and TRO. Global clients include adidas, Apple, Gatorade, Henkel, Hilton Hotels, McDonald's, Nissan and Singapore Airlines. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, and like us on Facebook. TBWA is part of Omnicom Group.