Brands for the Brain: Unlocking Wellness Trends
By Lisa M. Hastings

It felt like a year of eat, sleep, work, repeat. A year of tensions, challenges, and a year when everything we thought we knew, changed. A year that took a toll on us all mentally, physically, and spiritually.  


But deep in chaos arrived an opportunity to learn, grow, and evolve. Particularly as it related to mental health. And brands took notice, facing similar challenges as we did. From lockdowns to work from home environments, businesses had to rethink and adapt to a constantly changing hierarchy of human need states. We sprinted to the top of Maslow's Hierarchy, only to shoot right back down to the bottom as safety and security were compromised by COVID-19. Panic buying, safety first and touchless societieshow did all that hurt our mindsets?

It led to an increased sense of uncertainty and our focus on immunity. Buzzwords like wellbeing, wellness, self-care, and mindfulness increasingly filled the headlines with tips on how to copebut were we? A sense of belonging, of connection in a time of mass isolationwe wanted brands that nourished and drove those meaningful moments, not just coping mechanisms to promote themselves.

The goal for consumers, for societies, and communitiesto surviveno, to thrive—is to return to a healthy, active, purposeful life, So, we saw brands either creating products to support consumer burnout and/or directly donating to foundations that support mental health awareness. Think how Cadbury launched their words campaign (UK) to acknowledge and get people talking about loneliness for the elderly. The pandemic unearthed topics previously hidden away. Driving difficult conversations by helping us empower our mental and physical health.

We review key trends on how brands are prioritizing wellness and mental health in their marketing messaging.

1. Good mood food and drinks.

In the food and beverage sector, infused ingredients and superfoods are a top priority in maximizing wellness. As the saying goes, “you are what you eat”—so why not indulge in something that will make you feel full on an emotional level?

Infused food has been popularised by the states, but in APAC alone, the CBD market is set to grow 34%  over the next five years. Taking inspiration from overseas  we can expect CBD in the form of Burgers (hemp burger chains) Energy bars, and even cocktails. 

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Cannabidiol may as well be dubbed the miracle drug. From its alleged anti-anxiety benefits and improved sleep through to fighting inflammation and aiding workout recovery, this ingredient is emerging into all sorts of spaces.

2. Pop a pill?

In the nutraceuticals space, products are introducing easy ways to incorporate wellness into your daily regimen. People are stressed. In fact, 64% of Australians are reported to seek professional help and an APAC survey showed that 57% of Gen-Z noted their mental health has worsened.

All age groups are experiencing unprecedented levels of elevated stress, affecting our eating, drinking and personal care. It’s even made sleep hacking more mainstream in our fight against fatigue, with the rise in products like Olly sleep gummies and Nootropic Shots. We’ve seen brain-focused sleep aids that track, trace, and inform us via technology. Brands like The Oura Ring are on the rise in Australia, Asia and beyond.

31% of consumers are taking more supplements and 29% are consuming more functional foods/beverages which proves that we are hungry for brain foodpun intended—to feel less tired, more purpose-led, and more inspired to try new things.

Necessity has driven much of the innovation and adoption in healthcare, but it is not something people used to take such an active role in addressing. The once 'Pharmaceutical' pop a pill space is becoming a fusion of mind-nourishing drink me formulations and chewables

Brands like SmartWatertranquility’ by Coca-Cola and Vive Organic integrate traditional eastern medicine tonics like Ginseng and Ashwagandha into lattes and power drink shots. Eastern and Western medicines have never worked closer together as we fuse ways of empowering wellbeing.

Convenience also counts with products like Maggie Beers CBD gummies, which boost psychological health and wellness. It’s colourful, easy to pop, and seriously portable. Such innovations continue to ramp up the healthcare space. 

3. Skin Gets Deep

Beauty brands are digging deep and tackling mental health stigmas head-on. It is more than applying make-up or serums, its about shining from within and embracing all forms of beauty. Brands like Cocoon Skin and Kiko are addressing the mind/body connection by making their skincare products mood-boosting, multi-sensorial experiences. Also, like the food and beverage sector, consumers are turning to CBD-infused products at all price points to isolate stress and calm their skin.

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Beauty brands are also embracing mental health in their commitment to supporting non-profits and other foundations. Take for example, Rare Beauty has the Rare Impact Fund — an educational website on destigmatizing mental health offers resources and support

4. More Home Time?!

We can’t talk about wellness without addressing lifestyle and personal fitness brands. Motivational products like LuLulemon’s Mirror and meditation classes are now accessible in the privacy of your own home, a place we’ve all spent too much time over the last 18 months.

According to Backlinko, out of 7.82 billion people in the world, 50.64% of the population use social networks, regardless of age or Internet access. We spend 2 hours and 25 minutes on these social media platforms daily. FOMO moved online too. But tuning out is crucial to tuning back in, and we’re seeking to go offline with the assistance of optimistic lifestyle products ranging from goal tracking journals, Feel Your Best card decks, and Take It Easy bath pillows that encourage positive mindsets and self-care. It’s a market that’s competing hard for our attention. 

If we can keep our minds healthy, well-rested, and less stressed, we’ll be better set for success. With food made for our brains, CBD supplements easing our sleep patterns, and skincare brands embracing inner beauty, the pandemic has set in motion a shift and momentum that is changing the conversation about complete well-being at a rapid pace. 

New and existing brands are innovating and leveraging these consumer trends to bring to market more relevant, exciting, and mind-bending solutions in an uncertain world. So, if Elon Musk is working on going to Mars and living forever, let’s all be well enough to join.


About Lisa Hastings  
Lisa is a globally experienced Creative Director & Brand Strategist. With 20 years of brand and agency experience, she has worked with brands, businesses and individuals across USA, Asia, and Europe.