Brandon Hoffman

21 December 2020

15 min read

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Smart fitness in a post-COVID world

By Jonathan Machado

5 min read

The eight dimensions of wellness a widely used framework for holistic health provides an interesting roadmap for how companies can help consumers lead healthier, happier lives. While the framework originated in the 1970s, its forward-thinking ideas are more applicable than ever in today’s integrated online and offline worlds.

Much like the decades-old observation that “software is eating the world,” or the more recent prediction that every company will become a fintech company, we see a future in which every company could be thought of as a wellness company. In order to resonate deeply with, and earn the trust of the Future Consumer, companies must promote one or more dimensions of wellness to their stakeholders consumers, employees, communities through their products, services, and brands.

The holistic wellness approach extends beyond physical exercise and nutrition, incorporating previously overlooked elements, such as social, emotional, and spiritual factors. This marks a fundamental change in consumer behavior corresponding with a shift from reactive (get sick, go to the doctor) to proactive (exercise daily so you don’t have to go to the doctor).

Today, the traditional cause-and-effect approach to health is being replaced by more integrative approaches recognizing the interconnectedness of the eight wellness dimensions. Companies that fundamentally understand the relationship between physical and spiritual well-being stand to benefit from this shift, giving them an advantage when it comes to developing products and services that resonate with consumers.

By assessing the world through the lens of the eight dimensions, and reflecting on how every aspect of a person’s life is connected, companies can develop personalized strategies for building loyalty that are more effective and capital efficient than the current approach, which is rooted primarily in sales and marketing.

In this analysis, we have included a group of consumer-centric companies that have earned loyalty by directly and indirectly improving at least one of the eight dimensions of wellness: Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, Occupational, Spiritual, Social, Financial, and Environmental.

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1. Physical Dimension: Recognizing the need for physical activity and healthy nutrition.

Smart Fitness is gaining market share and mindshare from gyms, as it reinforces the benefits of the physical dimension of wellness. Peloton, for instance, has carved out a niche by leveraging technology to empower people to be the best version of themselves anywhere, anytime.

The fact that the company has succeeded in improving the lives of its customers through fitness is best captured in its Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 94. That score means that an overwhelming percentage of Peloton bike owners would recommend the company to a friend or colleague. Peloton also inspires a 92 percent retention rate.

Interestingly, peripheral industries are also incorporating smart fitness into their business models. For instance, Lululemon acquired Mirror for $500 million in order to get closer to the consumer, and to directly provide activity in line with Lulu’s mantra to ignite a community to live the “sweatlife.”

Another example is Nintendo. Despite the success of its Switch console and the tailwinds of gaming demand, Nintendo also decided to (re)join the fitness space by releasing the Ring Fit, which has been consistently sold out due to overwhelming demand akin to what happened when Nintendo changed the Fitness landscape with Wii Fit, by bringing the first gamification and social component to interactive fitness.

Similarly, Beyond Meat is providing “better-for-you” alternatives to meat that are healthier since plant-based diets reduce the risk of developing heart failure by 42 percent. Like Peloton, Beyond Meat is succeeding by supplementing how it improves people’s physical wellness with peripheral missions like positively impacting climate change and improving animal welfare. Despite serving a unique nutritional niche, Beyond Meat now has a market capitalization of $9 billion.

The takeaway here is that companies are better served by focusing on ways to help consumers become the best and healthiest version of themselves, which drives engagement and builds loyalty.

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2. Emotional Dimension: Understanding feelings, values, and attitudes.

Understanding your own feelings, values, and attitudes; appreciating the feelings of others; and managing emotions in a constructive way are all keys to leading a more positive and enthusiastic life. There is a mental health crisis in the U.S., in which the healthcare system typically did not provide coverage for mental health until only a decade ago. However, the need for emotional support is universal, and that has helped create a favorable climate for mental health startups.

Calm, for example, has notably become a household name, offering guided meditations, and sleep stories with support from popular celebrities such as Lebron James and Matthew McConnaughey. This has helped the company to achieve a more than 100 million downloads. This milestone was called out in Calm’s latest funding round, raising $75 million at a $2 billion valuation. This is a result of the company’s unwavering focus on helping people.

Calm’s focus was also demonstrated during the 2020 pandemic, during which stress has been unparalleled especially for those who have lost their jobs. Calm offered free resources through a global meditation event (#CalmTogether) and partnered with Kaiser Permanente, which offered Calm’s premium option free to its members.

Of course, sometimes emotional well-being requires more than meditation, with more clinical treatments necessary for depression or anxiety. Lyra Health has demonstrated the ability to provide “blended care” a combination of video sessions with personalized digital lessons rooted in cognitive therapy all from the comfort of one’s home. The company’s approach has proven results.

The pandemic has led to a surge in demand for Lyra’s offerings, with a study that showed that 83 percent of U.S. employees have been struggling with mental health. Lyra doubled its total members within the first seven months of 2020, adding 800,000 new members, and secured a Series D venture capital round that raised $110 million, valuing the company at $1.1 billion.

When it comes to the emotional dimension of wellness, companies can unlock value by connecting with consumers on an emotional level through niche solutions that can be personalized to each individual’s experience.

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3. Intellectual Dimension: Maintaining curiosity and valuing lifelong learning.

One key to intellectual wellness is maintaining curiosity, valuing lifelong learning, and expanding knowledge and skills to more positively take on mental challenges and discover one’s potential. Discovery, curiosity, and intellectual fulfillment are central to a balanced life. The intellectual dimension of wellness has given rise to a democratized access to knowledge that manifests itself through the rise of learning apps, massively open online courses, and educational podcasts.

The common element across these learning channels is self-improvement, which often stretches beyond career development. On Duolingo, for instance, more than 30 million active users can recreationally learn a new language and expand their horizons beyond their home country.

Through Coursera, customers can enroll in a history or literature class from a top university for free. In March and April, Coursera saw a 398 percent increase in general users, those not affiliated with businesses, governments, or universities. The fact that Duolingo saw a similar surge in usage, with 66 percent growth in new U.S. users in March 2020 versus February, suggests that people fundamentally want to improve their well being through learning.

Interestingly, we have also seen a shift in knowledge consumption on non-traditional platforms. Consumers are increasingly using YouTube to learn everything from how to speak a new language to how to build a car.

Meanwhile, music platform Spotify is becoming a hub for podcasts. Podcast growth has been so robust that Spotify became the single biggest podcast platform earlier this year. By combining self-expression through personalized music and the intellectual fulfillment from podcasts, Spotify has enriched the lives of its consumers on two complementary levels.

The takeaway here is that companies offering learning and self-enrichment can contribute to a consumer’s holistic wellness by tapping into their curiosity, and by fulfilling their desire to reach their full potential.

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4. Occupational Dimension: Preparing for a satisfying work experience.

This dimension includes preparing for work, participating in work, and contributing one’s unique talents to work that ideally will lead to personal satisfaction and enrichment because it is consistent with someone’s values, goals, and lifestyle.

Occupational patterns are changing as the future of work evolves to include more frequent job hopping, remote work, democratized creator tools, SMB software, and increased freelancing in the gig economy.

Coming out of a period of historically high unemployment, companies that deliver value across the occupational dimension of wellness by improving people’s lives will continue to earn the loyalty of younger generations with a different mindset around work.

LinkedIn’s professional network of 720 million members in more than 200 countries, for example, has become a cornerstone of career progression. But the networking and job application aspects of the business actually had to be supplemented with tools that helped customers round-out their skills.

In order to continue to improve people's lives and close the skills gap, LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, acquired Lynda.com for $1.5 billion adding to its collection of high quality courses and video content.

Another example is Upwork. The freelance marketplace offers services in more than 70 work categories across 8,000+ skills. Taken together with creative tools, like Canva, these skills can empower consumers to control their own destiny and to pursue work that is consistent with their values, goals, and lifestyle.

This occupational dimension illustrates how companies that align their business to empower employees to achieve personal satisfaction and fulfillment through work will win in the race for talent, and may also be able to harness the creative talents of consumers.

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5. Spiritual Dimension: Participating in activities that are consistent with one’s beliefs.

Participating in activities that are consistent with one’s beliefs and values helps consumers find purpose and meaning in life, with or without organized religion.

Future consumers are more expressive than ever before and values, purpose, and identity play a critical role in what they consider to be a meaningful and fulfilled life. For millennials, in particular, this spiritual dimension has been met by religion. But society is evolving in ways that appear to be moving away from organized religion and church. To fill that spiritual void, people are tapping into their consumerism, with two-thirds of the world buying based on their beliefs.

Perhaps the gold standard of brands resonating with consumers at a spiritual level is Nike. The company’s “Just Do It” mantra inspires individuals to forgo all doubt and to become the best version of themselves.

Interestingly though, Nike has pivoted away from simply motivating its customers with a powerful universal statement moving towards actively changing what its brand stands for in order to better reflect its expressive consumers. For instance, Nike has taken a stance in favor of gender and racial equality, both domestically and abroad.

Nike is now constantly evolving to reflect the values of consumers. Instead of expecting consumers to adapt to it, Nike adapts to consumers. This has positioned the company to serve as a spiritual representation of what its customers stand for.

A great example of this shift is Nike’s controversial support of Colin Kaepernick’s stand for racial justice. This challenged Nike’s customers to: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

While there was concern Nike’s communication of purpose and meaning would alienate customers, the message resonated and drove incremental sales and customer engagement. Four years after Kaepernick's initial protest against social injustice, the football player’s Nike Icon jersey 2.0, retailing for $150, sold out in under a minute. This reinforced the importance consumers place on values and purpose.

The takeaway here is that companies that connect with consumers on a spiritual level, anchored in values, and with purpose as the North Star, and can tap into a significantly deeper level of loyalty based on beliefs.

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6. Social Dimension: Developing friendships and maintaining healthy relationships.

Developing friendships and intimate relations, maintaining healthy relationships, belonging to and contributing to a community to care for others, and letting others care for one’s self are all part of the social dimension. People are inherently social beings and have a desire to connect with others, which is what has made traditional social networks so valuable, and network effects so powerful.

Social networks have offered the chance to be connected regardless of distance and time, through asynchronous updates of posts, updates, photos, and messages on social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Skype.

Even more powerful than a simple connection within one’s network is a deep connection with a community through a valued experience. That is where social networks appear to be heading. In 2020, emerging companies that have taken social to the next level include TikTok and Roblox.

TikTok has provided a music experience in ways that no social network has been able to do no matter how massive the user base or how vast the resources (see Facebook’s Instagram Reels product launch and redesign). TikTok also has provided a social experience that no music platform has been able to do no matter the size, influence, or connections to the industry.

During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the launch of stay-at-home orders in early 2020, people looking for new ways to connect with one another and share an experience, turned to TikTok to share music-related experiences that consistently went viral from funny skits to dance challenges.

In the U.S., 12 million new users joined the platform in March 2020 alone, and in the first quarter of 2020, TikTok globally surpassed the 2 billion downloads milestone. TikTok was rumored to be worth valuations potentially around $50 billion, after just 5 years of existence a valuation that took Spotify 14 years to achieve.

Roblox is an extremely popular game these days, especially with children, given more than half of its over 31 million monthly users being under the age of 13. But Roblox is more than just a successful game, it offers a community in ways that no other popular game title ever has.

Its mission is to bring the world together through play, and it does so completely through user-generated games. In other words, the millions of games available within the Roblox platform have all been created by its own community of 2 million creators the majority of them being children. Game players and game creators are cohesively in the same community, which does more than enable them to simply play video games. They can also use the platform as a place to have conversations with close friends.

Companies that offer rich, shared experiences with an authentic community that is empowered to build and manage itself, can meaningfully stand out from traditional experiences or traditional networks.

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7. Financial Dimension: Managing financial resources and making informed decisions.

The financial dimension includes engaging resources, making informed decisions, setting realistic goals, and preparing for emergencies to achieve financial stability and empowerment unique to one’s values, needs, and circumstances.

In the age of consumerism, most companies focus on driving revenue growth, even if it comes at the expense of the customer’s financial health. However, there is a growing cohort of companies that leverage technology and innovative forms of monetization to actually improve, and not detract, from financial health. Among these is Intuit, a company that has put the consumer-first through its transformative acquisitions.

Intuit acquired Mint in 2009 for $170 million and Credit Karma in 2020 for $7 billion, in order to expand its B2C financial wellness platform. Mint’s free mobile and desktop tools help consumers with everything from bill tracking and budgeting to managing investments and loans. Similarly, Credit Karma helps its 37 million active members monitor their credit scores free of charge in order to help them achieve better financial health.

According to the company, credit information asymmetry and financial complexity are two of the biggest detractors of financial health. In creating a free monitoring solution, Credit Karma added value to the 60 percent of consumers trying to improve their credit scores by providing transparency and simplicity.

Improving financial well-being at a societal level is a huge step towards financial stability for the millions of Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Companies like Intuit can play a larger role in shaping societal issues, such as closing the racial wealth gap. This is a sharp contrast to traditional financial services companies which, in many cases, make consumers worse off.

The key takeaway here is that companies that promote financial wellness will emerge from the pandemic with a growing base of loyal customers because those companies have helped them navigate a period of extreme financial uncertainty.

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8. Environmental Dimension: Understanding the connection between health and the environment.

This dimension includes knowing the effect one’s daily habits have on the physical environment and understanding how natural and built environments affect health and well-being leading to a commitment to sustaining a healthy planet.

Patagonia is among the clearest examples of companies building loyalty through environmental wellness. First, it is moving toward 100 percent recycled materials and carbon neutrality by 2025. This is particularly innovative in apparel given that less than 1 percent of used clothing is recycled each year.

Patagonia has also made it clear that it stands for more than just profits. It donates 1 percent of sales to the preservation and restoration of the environment. It has also cemented its reputation as prioritizing planet over profits by introducing a program called Wornwell. Through this program, the company repairs, recycles, and sells used Patagonia gear. In doing so, Patagonia has willingly chosen to cannibalize its own sales in efforts to prevent old gear from ending up in landfills.

This message of environmental wellness has resonated with consumers and has created a brand halo around Patagonia that few other brands can replicate.

Another example is Tesla, which has become synonymous with its brilliant founder Elon Musk, and also with its skyrocketing stock price, which is up 10-times since last year and holds a current market capitalization of $620 billion. However, its mission since its 2003 inception has been to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

With Tesla focused on moving people away from fossil fuels and toward zero-emission auto travel, it has transformed the automotive industry by forever changing the electric vehicle (EV), and by not making consumers compromise when deciding to drive an EV.

Tesla has made EVs seem safer, faster, and cooler than traditional cars that use fossil fuels. This has been a powerful demonstration of consumer-centricity. Consumers can buy a Tesla and have it stand for both sportiness and environmentalism. Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity in 2016 also gave it a full ecosystem of sustainability by offering energy generation and storage products for people’s homes and businesses.

Companies that prioritize the planet over profits are positioning themselves to elicit trust with consumers who care more than ever about sustainability, climate change, and protecting the natural environment. This dimension, along with the other seven dimensions, offers consumer-centric companies insight into how to engage consumers in ways that resonate with them on both the personal and emotional levels.

Ultimately, a holistic approach to wellness which also integrates with a company’s strategy related to marketing its products, services, and brands can foster engagement, reinforce brand loyalty and, most importantly, encourage repeat sales.

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