The rise of ‘calmtainment’

As the pandemic boosts interest in wellness apps and platforms, brands are layering health-focused messaging into their content plays.

Screen Shot 2021-03-22 at 3.49.51 PM

By Andrew Jeffrey

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of strategy.

Last year, one of the most popular apps for sleep and meditation launched a TV series, dubbed A World of Calm. The show hit screens via Warner Media’s HBO Max with a star-studded cast providing narration over soothing visuals to relax viewers. Months later this foray by Calm was matched by a familiar competitor: wellness company Headspace, which created a TV show of its own after signing a deal with Netflix.

But the trend didn’t stop at streamers. Samsung-connected TVs are now hubs for Samsung Health, a platform for physical and mental wellness content; Spotify has begun to offer a personalized Daily Wellness mix of podcasts and music; and Apple launched a Fitness+ workout subscription program for customers.

That these popular platforms would be interested in offering wellness content isn’t surprising. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, people were thinking more about personal health, and their interest in what’s being called “calmtainment” has only grown in the past year.

Consumers have developed more of an expectation to see wellness ideas and messages in other industries whether it’s in media, travel, technology or, of course, health, said Amy Laski, president of Felicity PR. “If [brands] didn’t have health and wellness involved prior to the pandemic, they better have that now,” says Laski.

Indigo, for one, recently took its investment in the wellness industry further with its own weekly podcast called Well Said. In it, CEO Heather Reisman discusses living well on the podcast, with guests ranging from scientists and entrepreneurs. According to Indigo VP of marketing Alison Lawler-Dean, the podcast was born out of positive feedback it received from customers after launching its “Feel Good” campaign, which included free yoga classes on IG, talks about empowerment with influencers, and guides on healthy eating with nutritionists.

She says the brand is noticing a larger value shift in how people want to spend their time and resources, and that they’re looking for guidance from experts on how to invest in their well-being. Through 25-minute conversations, the brand breaks down health ideas into more digestible units, she says. “Canadians have had to adapt in so many ways, and we’re seeing a shift to purposeful living – finding those moments of joy, big and small, and purposefully finding ways to actively engage with those ideas in order to live well,” says Lawler-Dean, adding that she believes wellness will continue to be a priority as the world begins to open up again.