How to avoid ‘wellness overwhelm’

Felicity's Amy Laski explains how to help consumers navigate an information overload that got more intense during the pandemic.
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By Amy Laski

Globally, people have been making positive gains in wellbeing over time, driven by an interest in living better.

So what happens when that desire collides with the information age we are currently living in, and then a global pandemic occurs?

Information overload.

Prior to the pandemic, our research revealed that one third of Canadians were actively trying to improve their wellness through lifestyle changes and trying new products. While marketers may have been well-meaning in their efforts to support consumers in making these lifestyle changes, Canadians reported feeling “overwhelmed, skeptical, confused, discouraged, anxious and even embarrassed or ashamed” in the face of most wellbeing marketing.

Add to this all the “should dos” and “must dos” to protect oneself from the virus, and the weight of information we bear is heftier than the “COVID-19 pounds” packed onto waistlines during lockdowns.

Wellbeing without overwhelm

As humans, we all want to “be well.” But realistically, for many, this desire to improve wellbeing outpaces their ability to take the steps to do so in their current reality.

Is there anything we, as wellbeing marketers, can do to encourage consumers to try to improve their wellbeing—particularly their mental health—during a stressful time, without overwhelming them? To utilize our brands as a force for simplicity in a time of great complexity, rather than to widen the chasm between aspiration and achievability?

Here are four steps to make sure your marketing is hitting the mark.

Aim for “fully whelmed”

My friend and executive coach Rachel Weinstein coined this term in reference to feeling like your proverbial plate is full, but not running over. I think the same concept can be applied to communications. Certainly, some information, conveyed in the right way, is a good thing. The onus is on us as marketers, to learn as much about our audiences as possible ­–ideally, directly from them– in order to find out what “fully whelmed” means for them. What information do they need? How and where do they want to find it out? Where else are they learning about your products or services? Your competitors’?

When was the last time you asked? As the sands shift constantly in light of the pandemic, we need to be taking a pulse and connecting even more frequently to make sure our efforts are effective. These insights can be gleaned through conversations, influencer and stakeholder relationships, and data analysis, among other methods.

Is it TMI?

Almost more important than knowing the right information to provide at the right amount, is being clear on what audiences do NOT want to know. In Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know, Cass R. Sunstein suggests that many times, less is more. Consumers may even actually avoid a product or service altogether in the face of well-intentioned information.

Consider warning labels as an example. Although genetically modified organisms (GMOs) haven’t been proven harmful, forcing food producers to disclose when ingredients contain GMOs leaves the impression to the consumer that the product may be dangerous. Consumers interpret “danger,” even if the goal was simply to share information. Red Auerbach, the late coach of the Boston Celtics, is aptly quoted in Sunstein’s book: “It’s not what you say; it’s what they hear.”

Leverage real influence

Often, the most meaningful way to engage a brand’s audiences is by partnering with those who have already earned their trust. From healthcare professionals to journalists, financial advisors to scientists and other influencers, these partnerships do double duty: they streamline communications and add credibility to your message.

Help people help

In this piece in SmartBrief, Hillary Haley, Ph.D. applies principles of psychology to marketing. She observes that during the pandemic, people are feeling powerless and lacking in control, which fuels stress. Haley suggests that “‘helping people help’ actually enables them to better cope with stress.” This, in turn, provides an opportunity to endear them to your brand.

Information overload is real and all-consuming right now. The pandemic is not the best time for a hard sell. Now is the time to support your consumers with information that will help them improve their wellbeing. What steps can your brand take – or refrain from taking – to ensure the wellbeing of your audiences?

Amy Laski is founder and president of Felicity, a communications and content agency focused on the wellbeing space.