Backslash, TBWA’s cultural intelligence unit, has released ED\GE, a new magazine that explores the next wave of Wellness. 

The project unpacks the evolving $4.5 trillion dollar global wellness industry by exploring its main shifts, pre-COVID and during COVID, 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.

The project’s five overarching conclusions are as follows:

° 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) 

° 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.

° After a spike of 44% at the start of the crisis, the proportion of Americans who say they are “fearful for their health and safety” has stabilized at a very high level, above 35% in most countries. This will fuel a more proactive, wellness-seeking approach to health. (Source: Hall and Partners, Global COVID-19 Panel, July 2020) 

° 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) ° 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. 

° 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.