How brands can tap into wellness – lessons from influencers

Wellness is profoundly changing consumer behavior. This shift is being driven by younger Millennials and the Gen Z population, for whom wellness is a dominant lifestyle value. Wellness is therefore fast becoming the business of companies that have never operated in this sector at all. A new Ogilvy Health and Ogilvy PR study, Wellness Influencers Got Real — But Where Are Brands?”, identifies ways in which brands can learn from wellness influencers to bridge the gap between consumers’ expectations of brands and delivery. 

Back in 2020, Ogilvy first quantified the gap between wellness expectations and how brands deliver against them in the award-winning Ogilvy Wellness Gap Study. The findings: 75% of those surveyed felt brands could do more for their own personal wellness journey and yet just 46% felt that brands consider their wellness a priority, revealing a significant untapped opportunity for marketers. 

This new research uncovers impactful insights on how brands can grow their reputation and following through inclusive, social wellness practices to close the wellness gap. Identifying the emergence of a new consumer behavior that Ogilvy termed “Social Wellness,” the study found that wellness micro-influencers had to radically adapt their engagement during the pandemic. Gone were the “sunshine and rainbows” flawless wellness lifestyles that had dominated social feeds. Instead, these influencers found favor in actively building more inclusive and authentic wellness communities based on everyday realities, balanced advice and honest depictions—including confessions of the ups and downs along their own wellness journeys.

Through in-depth interviews with these micro-influencers in the wellness arena, Ogilvy identified six important tips for brands looking to close the wellness gap:

1. Understand the wellness journey of consumers

It’s a lifestyle journey, not a destination. The setbacks, interruptions and changes in circumstances are what keep community members engaged and seeking support. Begin by listening to the community to identify the obstacles and topics that generate the most engagement.

2. Define your value-add in wellness

Are relevant wellness moments of truth more practical (problem solving) or emotional (entertainment and mental health) in nature? Where can your brand add the most value? 

3. Identify diverse voices

Gen Z expects diverse voices of all races, gender identities, sexual orientations, body types, abilities and ages in your brand’s Instagram feed. Seek out the diverse voices less often represented in your sector and find ways to connect with them. 

4. Get out of the way

Brands cannot be didactic about social content and expect influencers to successfully connect this to their own personal brand and community. Most influencers have seen wellness brand partnerships fail over excessive brand message control.

5. Build long-term influencer partnerships

Choose influencers who work with fewer partners and they will work much harder for you to deliver a collaboration that leverages the trust they have with their audience over a quick sell. One-off partnership posts do not generate long-lasting, positive engagement. 

6. Establish appropriate wellness metrics

Motherhood and breastfeeding are frequently portrayed as easy, beautiful and natural on social media.  Medela wanted to debunk this myth. In reality, the first few weeks of breastfeeding can be so challenging that many moms give up. Medela’s goal was to help new moms make it past the first, often most challenging, 21 days.

Working with two mom-fluencers from diverse backgrounds—Carolina and MJ—Medela gave them the reins to share their honest, painful successes and every hiccup in between. Their real-time, daily content was simply amplified on Medela’s social channels and other mothers were invited to show their support and engage with Carolina and MJ. Women responded not only to the unfiltered content, but also engaged with one another in community comments, questions and reactions. They shared their own stories and offered messages of encouragement. Together, this created a community of support for moms everywhere who were on their own breastfeeding journey, achieving 90 million media impressions. One in four moms who saw the campaign engaged with it (twice the industry average) and this attracted 8,000 new followers for Medela’s Instagram channel. 

In truth, almost every brand can grow in the wellness economy with a relevant value proposition and the right brand experience. Our latest research uncovers new insights on how brands can truly close the wellness gap and grow within their industry sectors by leveraging inclusive social wellness practices to “get real” in wellness.

For brands seeking a greater presence in the wellness space, there is immense potential to create enduring relationships with customers through authenticity, better representation and long-term partnerships with those who have already established their credibility in the space. Brand marketers who are willing to step outside their more traditional marketing comfort zones are well positioned to reap the benefits.

The full study and report “Wellness Influencers Got Real — But Where Are Brands?” is available for download now on and Marion McDonald can be reached at [email protected].