Innovation and enterprise blog

14 June 2019

From ‘hippy’ to ‘hip’ – how the wellness sector had a major re-brand

We all had that one shop in our hometown growing up that sold crystals and burnt incense. Back in Macclesfield, where I grew up, that place was Spivey’s Web. You know the type of place I mean: bedecked in wind chimes with plinky-plonky music playing and a bare-foot owner with long grey hair who smelled of dried lavender and disappointment.

For a very long time, I relegated anything that pertained to the vaguely mystical realm of Spivey’s Web in a box marked ‘a bit weird’. Healing crystals, veganism, affirmations, self-help, and meditation – these were all words at which I’d cynically roll my eyes should they crop up in conversation. Fast forward to today, however, and I’m actually the one bringing those words up in everyday chats, along with millions of other converts in our increasingly wellness-loving population. In fact, I started my own business after seeing an opportunity to help a growing number of wellness sector brands convey their message in a way that’s authentic, honest and holistic.

Liz Ellery is a photographer, website designer, fashion industry insider and founder of Elizabeth Ellery.

So what changed to put wellness back on the radar, and what can it teach you about the power of branding in your business?

My story

Let’s do a little rewind here. In 2016 I read a book by Jen Sincero that fundamentally changed the way I viewed my life. I realised that I didn’t have to do the exact same job for the next 20 – 30 years, I could do and be whatever I wanted to be. For me - this was HUGE and it completely reinvigorated the way I thought about my life opportunities!

Spurred on by this realisation I started reading more books, listening to more podcasts, and even attending events everywhere from London to Los Angeles within the wellness movement. I realised that this incredibly powerful community existed to help me be the best version of myself, and I was hooked. The old me thought that wellness was just about exercising, drinking more water and doing a bit of yoga, but I was so wrong. The new me wanted to be a part of this emerging industry and the opportunity it created to do business in a more responsible, positive way which was a far cry from the corporate world that I’d experienced previously.

An example of the physical and mental exercise of Yoga and Meditation

Social media and celebrity influencers

Since time began we’ve looked to people in the public eye as a source of fascination, inspiration and aspiration. Recently we’ve seen a huge increase in celebrities’ willingness to open up and talk about their vulnerabilities, what makes them happy, what makes them tick and how they’re keeping healthy - both internally and externally. Everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow (whose Goop wellness brand is now worth a whopping $250 million) and Fearne Cotton (who launched her Happy Place podcast in 2018) to Russell Brand, Dawn French and Gary Barlow have jumped on the wellness bandwagon by letting us in on their concerns or stresses, and on the reality of life behind the glitz and glamour. This is helping spearhead a sea-change wherein we’re all becoming a lot more open about our mental and physical health and the strategies we employ to help us feel our very best, whether that’s through yoga, nature walks, meditation, adopting a vegan diet or even just buying organic skincare!  

You can do this too by using your influence, your story and your actions to inspire and motivate others – whether that’s a potential customer or a personal connection. A year after I started my personal branding company, a close family member was struck by how happy I’d become after following my dreams. This motivated them to follow their own dreams, and switched career paths from a corporate job to follow their passion for cooking and is now working as a private chef. Wellness is all about being the change you wish to see and setting a positive example by ‘walking the walk’.

Liz Ellery's example of branding through the use of social media

Of course, the impact of social media can’t be underestimated, and over the past twelve months in particular we’ve seen a huge shift in the types of content that we like to see. Whilst Instagram used to be all about curating an aspirational, picture-perfect existence, there’s a burgeoning trend for ‘authenticity’ that is being reflected in the type of content we post about our lives and the stories we choose to tell. Rather than the filtered, pouting pre-workout selfie we’re sharing the sweaty, puffed out post-workout face, warts and all!

What’s so fantastic about this from a branding perspective is that you can do it in your business too. If social media can take the wellness industry from the dark ages of hippies, wind-chimes and medicinal herbs to the global industry worth £3.5 trillion that it is today, just think of the potential there is for you to use your social channels to communicate your unique message to the world!

Millennials are leading the charge

Something else that’s boosted the wellness industry is the differentiation in mindset evident amongst the Millennium generation. There’s a great scene in the film 21 Jump Street where Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play policemen going undercover as high school students that demonstrates this. Channing wants to be accepted by the cool kids so resorts to acting like he did back when he was popular in high school, but this ends up being poorly received because the school environment today is drastically different from that of fifteen years ago. Millennials are much more tuned in to personal and social responsibility and are more risk-averse than previous generations, as well as being less motivated by material possessions. A recent study by the University of London reported an increase in the numbers of 16 – 25 year olds who avoid alcohol for example, whilst an Eventbrite survey showed that only one in ten people now regard being drunk as ‘cool’. These trends feed into the growth of the wellness industry and demonstrate the growing importance of making physically and emotionally healthy choices amongst the younger generation – who are your future customers. It’s also something to be aware of in terms of future-proofing your own business and ensuring that your branding and messaging is going to appeal with a customer base with a growing social and personal conscience. You need to be ready to respond to a potential client base who expect to see their values reflected in the products and services they engage with.

What does wellness mean for you?

Wellness is an entirely holistic concept. Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal… not merely the absence of disease’ it is a term encompassing so much more than simply exercising and eating well, but extending into positive mental and emotional health and focussing on long term positive changes and sustainability rather than short term goals (for example healthy, balanced eating rather than weight loss and diets). It’s an evolution from niche lifestyle concept to an important global commodity that now accounts for more than 5% of worldwide economic output shows the transformation that’s possible when your business benefits from the right advocates (whether that’s influencers, celebrities or just your happy customers), has a strong and authentic brand and aligns with current cultural consciousness and the prevailing social climate. The growth of the industry also demonstrates the importance of paying attention to trends when plotting your business growth. We’re all looking for real human connections and the notion that ‘people buy people’ is more important now that it ever has been, which is why it’s essential that there’s congruence between our business brand and who we are as individuals. That’s one lesson from the wellness sector that we can all benefit from.

Liz Ellery is a photographer, website designer and fashion industry insider who’s launched two successful businesses and now uses her skills to help entrepreneurs build the perfect personal brand online through her company Elizabeth Ellery.