The Wellness Brands Diversifying Inclusivity

From its controversial roots as an oft-considered elitist, restrictive and one-dimensional pursuit punctuated by images of Gwyneth Paltrow, expensive juice diets and whitewashing to its more recent shedding of said markers to represent a more relatable, reflective and inclusive concept — the definition of what’s considered to be wellness continues to mutate and evolve.

Over the past couple of years in particular, wider societal shifts such as the Black Lives Matter Movement, a growing mental health crisis and the rise of the everyday hero in the midst of a global pandemic, have brought the wellness industry’s (and many others) lack of accessibility, diversity and inclusivity into even sharper focus. 

Elsewhere, driven in part by the unapologetic and non-conformist attitudes of Gen Z, we’ve also witnessed how positive movements such as #HonorMyCurves #freethepimple and #vaginahealth have given way to the emergence of a less toxic and shame-ridden rhetoric around wellness, in which differences are celebrated, inclusivity is cultivated and communities are born out of new cultural norms.

All of these drivers have further catalysed consumers to speak out against and boycott brands that don’t prioritise diversity and representation, with data from Sprout Social revealing that today, 70% of consumers feel it’s important for brands to take a stand on social and political issues, 55% would boycott or discontinue shopping with brands that support public issues that don’t align with their own views. And 34% of consumers will decrease their spending with a brand whose values they disagree with.

In response, the wellness industry has collectively acknowledged that it must and can do better when it comes to diversity and representation, while individual brands are recognising the success that can come from championing both underserved demographics and a less filtered and polished approach to wellness. 

This shift in mindset has led to an uprising of innovators who are looking beyond the most dominant or visible forms of diversity and representation to cater to even more specific and granular differences in individual needs or identities — and, in a way that doesn’t leave anyone out of the conversation. 

The brands rewriting the narrative
For the trailblazers, the common approach revolves around rewriting the narrative to reclaim and reimagine what was once erased or suppressed — whether that be marginalised groups, body differences or divergent values. 

Award-winning razor brand Billie, for example, has found itself connecting with consumers on a more emotional level by not only showcasing real bodies without filters or airbrushing but by helping to make women’s body hair less controversial. 

The Wellness Brands Diversifying Inclusivity
Image: Billie

Acne patch startup Starface has shaken up the skincare category by rewriting the narrative around breakouts, with the brand gaining traction thanks to its refreshing rhetoric which aims to empower consumers to approach skin concerns without shame or stigma. 

And, by making hair loss more relatable and visible, Keeps is helping to normalise and mainstream a topic that for many has been considered too uncomfortable to verbalise publically. In doing so, it has seen its subscribers increase 125% to more than 260K (in 2020), with its sales surpassing $48 million.

Digging their heels further into this trend, are a contingent of startups helping to create entirely new wellness categories in their own right. They’re providing solutions for stages or aspects of life that have previously been ignored or completely forgotten — whether that be down to their perceived ‘unsexiness’, a lack of representation for the individuals they impact or a wider resistance for breaking down the social stigmas attached to them.

Spearheading brands including Womaness and Kindra, for example, are aiming to fill those gaps for women experiencing menopause.

Having largely been overlooked or excluded by beauty and wellness brands, thanks to traditional attitudes valuing youthfulness as something to be celebrated and marketed, in contrast to ageing as something to be feared and concealed, women over a certain age have found themselves left out of the conversation time and time again.

Furthermore, when it comes to menopause specifically, hot flushes, sleepless nights, low libido, light leakage and so on don’t particularly lend themselves to the aspirational and picture-perfect image of the cliche wellness warrior of the past. This is a problem that Womaness is working to address.

“Our mission is to change the conversation around menopause and the women experiencing it,” explained Co-founder Michelle Jacobs. “We want to be the first brand women think of when they think of menopause, offering them a collection of innovative products that address the most common (and often taboo) symptoms. We want to bring these issues into the light with innovative solutions, education, and community.”

Pioneering a refreshing approach to menopause, the brand, which sells products including the ‘Me No Pause’ menopause relief supplement ($40), ‘Daily V Soothe’ external vaginal moisturiser ($15) and the ‘Here There Everywhere’ body wipes ($10), represents vibrant and dynamic women who don’t want to be stopped in their tracks by a transitional period of life that affects a huge proportion of the population.

And it does so whilst still catering to the dominant values of the wellness consumer — a desire for clean ingredients, thoughtful design and purpose.

Instead of being shrouded in secrecy, awkwardness and degradation, Womaness creates what it calls ‘menopositivity’. By celebrating ageing and encouraging an open discussion around menopause it cultivates a safe and welcoming community for an underserved group. 

This, it hopes, will further help others to embrace menopause without fear of stigma and embarrassment. 

The Wellness Brands Diversifying Inclusivity
Image: Womaness

P&G-backed Kindra also takes a positive approach to the neglected world of menopause by providing consumers with products, resources and emotional support in a way that is chic, candid and cool. And like Womaness, the DTC startup is perfectly primed to disrupt an under-tapped market that’s starved for information, services and community.

Better Not Younger, Nessa Organics, Pause Well Aging, Cora and Tabu all follow a similar playbook, offering aspirational, authentic and accessible products that speak to a demographic inspired by the actions and behaviours of Gen Z to have more open and honest conversations about once-taboo subjects.

And for the brand’s that can get it right, the opportunity speaks for itself. According to a 2020 report released by venture capital firm Female Founders Fund, approximately 1 billion women globally are expected to be in menopause by 2025 — a potential $600 billion goldmine.

The brands breaking down taboos
Within this emerging landscape, an uprising of specialised startups such as Dadi and Legacy are also giving a voice to men who want to feel seen and empowered when it comes to the fertility journey, which is still widely portrayed as being a women’s issue.

Brands like Stix, Nurx, Evvy and Blume are tackling taboos by easing the awkwardness around women’s sexual health via access, learning, education and community — all without judgement, anxiety or exclusion.

And companies including Lyra Health, Boulder Care, Affect Therapeutics and Tempest are opening up the conversation and breaking down preconceived notions associated with addiction. 

These overlooked blind spots are attracting copious amounts of investment too. Over the past couple of years, Stix has raised $4.9 million from investors,  Dadi has secured $10 million and Legacy has raised $20.2 million.

By creating solutions that inspire, humanise and emotionally connect with their specific audiences, whether that be utilising imagery, language or accessible pathways that haven’t been leveraged before, these brands are facilitating engagement with underserved pockets of the market to connect with consumers who are very clear that existing codes and conventions need to change and definitions of inclusion must broaden. 

The Wellness Brands Diversifying Inclusivity
Image: Dadi

The future landscape
As consumer demand for the diversification of inclusivity gains momentum, wellness brands will need to recognise that if they fail to embrace this new outlook they risk alienating themselves and stalling future growth.

Today, inclusivity doesn’t mean ticking a box by featuring one black or brown face, or a token curvy model in a marketing campaign, nor does it suffice to simply attach existing brand offerings to mainstream movements such as Pride or Black History Month in order to pay lip service to diversity and inclusion without putting in any actual work

Almost 80% of consumers globally expect that brands today demonstrate a consistent commitment to inclusivity and diversity in their advertising, while the same percentage think brands need to do a better job at capturing people’s lifestyles and cultures, according to a recent report by Getty Images.

More specifically, the report reveals that consumers believe it’s not enough to show people of various ethnicities, but that brands need to represent the cultural nuances that set them apart, too – from race and gender to age, body type and beyond.

In addition, the expectation is that inclusivity isn’t a trend to be followed but a critical piece of a brand’s DNA that should be more than skin deep. It should be visible from the top down and integrated into the entire framework of a business from leadership and employees to product and service design to properly representing and catering for customers. 

To thrive within this new landscape, the wellness brands of the future must drive new, more exhaustive forms of inclusivity, rather than following the dominant definitions that have already been established. And look ahead to assess how the target is likely to move in two, five and ten years from now.

By finding the silos that still exist within specific wellness categories and thinking about the role they can play now and in the future, they can prim themselves for success, even as the needle moves. 

The Wellness Brands Diversifying Inclusivity
Image: Folx

Take FOLX a healthcare provider specifically created for the LGBTQ+ community or Inclusive Therapists which matches individuals with practitioners that understand their specific identity markers. It is pioneering a new approach to care that’s targeting the needs of specific communities in a way that makes it possible for them to evolve alongside those communities as needed.

Or, gender-neutral beauty and sexual wellness brands such as Dame, Milk Makeup and Iyoba that are leading the charge when it comes to ditching gendered marketing in favour of selling and marketing unisex products instead. These trailblazers have taken note of where consumer values and behaviours are headed and are championing the emerging rhetoric before it cements itself as an expectation rather than a nice to have.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to diversifying inclusivity but wellness brands do need to choose how they approach it and in what ways they can demonstrate their authenticity if they want to be a part of this more progressive and diverse reality. 

To read more about the wellness brands diversifying inclusivity, download our 2022 Consumer Wellness Trends Report

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