The rise of WELLNESS and what it means for your brand

The rise of WELLNESS and what it means for your brand

Study People. Examine Brands. Explore Culture.

During the past year, the concept of “wellness” has shifted due to COVID-19 among other recent and myriad social disruptions. With so many lives lost and so many lives changed, wellness and wellbeing have been brought into focus for nearly everyone. While the traditional adages of wellness and wellbeing—get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise regularly—remain true, new ideas, brands, apps, products and services are emerging with a renewed focus on helping people achieve wellness.

Relief from the Never-Ending Work Day

For those lucky enough to work full-time from home beginning during shelter-in-place orders and continuing today, the struggle for wellness is real. Suddenly, people are working all the time with no routine for wellness activities or self-care. Snacking can happen 24/7 and exercise is  difficult to incorporate. According to a new study by Asana, more than 89% of American workers said they faced burnout in 2020, and nine out of ten workers also admitted to working longer hours throughout 2020. There has been an emergence of brands and products aimed at helping people better manage time at home from exercising, to eating, to sleeping. Until the pandemic lifts (and likely beyond) we will continue to see new ways to bring wellness into the home and ideas for putting work on pause. 

The Rise of the Calming App

The Rise of the Calming App

Apps for meditation and sleep are hitting the market at record speed. With stress and anxiety continuing unabated for nearly a year and few traditional stress relief outlets available due to lockdowns, people have turned to their phones for help by downloading apps that help manage stress and enhance wellness. The Calm meditation app (despite the premium version of the app costing $69.99 for a year subscription) has been downloaded 80 million times. Headspace, Reflectly and Sleepiest are other popular apps that promote wellness. Mental health has been a big concern this past year, and brands and companies are taking positive strides to normalize care for mental and emotional health.

Enjoying the Home-Cooked Meal

Enjoying the Home-Cooked Meal

How people think about and get food has been heavily influenced by the pandemic. According to a recent article in Food Dive, “more than four out of five consumers say the coronavirus pandemic has changed their food habits, driving them to cook, eat, shop and think about food differently.” More people started cooking at home during the onset of the pandemic, and they are planning to continue to do so after things open back up. 

Taking Breaks from the Media

Taking Breaks from the Media

During the pandemic, the search for truth and facts about the virus has been difficult—with lots of conflicting information. This same conflict continued through the presidential election here in the U.S., which fueled a mistrust of the media. Unable to find trustworthy news sources and wanting to take a break from “doomscrolling” and the never ending amount of information, people are attempting “digital detox”. From creating “no tech zones” in their houses to downloading apps that enforce time limits, finding ways to hit pause on screens has been a hot topic the past year. 

The Focus on Brand Responsibility

The Focus on Brand Responsibility

While brand responsibility has been important in the past to many consumers, how people think about what brands are responsible for shifted during 2020. People started to pay more attention to how brands were treating employees and their approach to dealing with the pandemic. As opposed to in the past where brand responsibility was tied to helping the environment or generally “doing good”, brand responsibility in 2020 became directly tied to the wellness of others. In a study by AMC Global, consumers reported that they were looking closely at how companies are treating employees and handling their needs during COVID-19. Brands like Starbucks and Target have boosted mental health resources for employees in response, and these efforts have been well-received by employees and consumers alike. 

Some “wellness” questions to ask as we move into 2021: 

  • What does wellness mean for your brand or businesses in a time when people are looking for help in maintaining their health and wellbeing?
  • How have your target consumers’ perceptions of wellness changed over the past year?
  • How will new perceptions of wellness and brand responsibility affect how your brand behaves?

Want to learn more how your brand can respond to consumer wellness needs?
Reach out to us!

In Pursuit of Personal Bias: Pushing Past the Surface to Understand How People Think and Act

We recently contributed to AdvertisingWeek 360 on understanding hidden, personal biases and how they motivate people—and how this has been at the root of marketing and advertising for decades.

Copyright © 2020 Big Squirrel, All rights reserved.

Small Talks, Big Topics:  Episode One with Rebecca Brooks (Founder & CEO Alter Agents)

Small Talks, Big Topics: Episode One with Rebecca Brooks (Founder & CEO Alter Agents)

We just uploaded an episode of our new creation, “Small Talks, Big Topics”—the first conversation in an intimate series of short-form, small-group, candid chats with brilliant, diverse women about reflection and reinvention during these times of uncertainty. Today, we wanted to share with you a compelling and refreshing talk with three amazing women.

Here is your recording of a conversation about living, working, reflecting and reinventing with us—Kathryn Johnson and Linda Jeo Zerba of Big Squirrel—and our special guest expert Rebecca Brooks (Founder & CEO, Alter Agents) along with Karen Bakos (Director, Consumer Research & Insights Meredith Corp.) and Jennie Kassanoff (Adolph S. and Effie Ochs Professor of American Studies and History At Barnard College).

Let’s talk more about staying connected during
these uncertain times: reach out to us!

Understanding Pandemic Consumer Behavior:
Are You a Gung-Hoer or Play It Safer?

There is no crystal ball showing us what’s coming next for the COVID-19 crisis… The questions for brands and businesses become: as we begin to open again, who will come? Is our audience the same or has it changed? How are people navigating their lives in this new way of living? 


Copyright © 2020 Big Squirrel, All rights reserved.

Small Talks, Big Topics:  Connecting in Conversation about Living, Working, Reflecting and Reinventing

Small Talks, Big Topics: Connecting in Conversation about Living, Working, Reflecting and Reinventing

Although we can’t predict the long-term effects of COVID-19 on our economy, our health, and our future, one thing has become clear: the pandemic is affecting women more adversely than other populations — socially, economically and emotionally. Women report feeling more overwhelmed than their male counterparts as a result of shouldering the responsibilities of childcare, higher incidences of job loss and a reduction in the amount of work they can do during COVID-19.

As we look at ways to support women during this time of uncertainty, staying connected plays a key role. Women often use emotion-focused coping — reaching out and talking with other women about the issues affecting them which allows for an emotional shift that relieves stress. We see and feel the amount of pressure this pandemic has brought to women and how it has disrupted those important connections that help foster general well-being.

Though many people report connecting with others more frequently online since the pandemic began, there is still room for real, candid conversations among professional women who are experiencing the pressures of this pandemic both “at work” and “at home”. What we need now are real discussions so women can feel supported by like-minded women going through similar challenges.

Being professional women and experiencing the pressures of this pandemic in all facets of our lives, we at Big Squirrel felt the need to create and launch “Small Talks, Big Topics”  — a new, intimate series of short-from, small-group, candid conversations with brilliant, diverse women about reflection and reinvention during times of uncertainty. Starting in September and continuing on a regular basis, each Small Talk will feature an expert sharing her experiences with us and with 3 guests who are also challenging the status-quo in their industry, in our culture as a whole, and in their professional and personal lives. The conversations that ensue are sure to be compelling and refreshingly frank.

Look for the recording of our next Small Talk, as we connect in conversation about living, working, reflecting and reinventing during this monumental time. To get notifications about recordings, please request to be added to our mailing list.

Copyright © 2020 Big Squirrel, All rights reserved.

Covid Trends

Covid Trends

To help brands and clients stay connected with their consumers during a time of constant change, we’re keeping an eye on some of the culture we see influencing choice. When these relevant cultural topics are amplified, we see brands garnering greater interest and loyalty.

Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”  – Michael Pollan, Author + journalist + food activist

Real Food Pride

We define “real food pride” as consumer desire to eat wholesome foods, to know where food comes from, and the pride that comes with sharing that knowledge with others. The Real Food movement has been around for a while, but the newly invigorated desire to share digitally during pandemic shutdown has given it a resurgence—especially, we’ve found, for baking bread! In this arena, brands can participate by educating consumers and providing knowledge in a way that makes it easy to share.

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” —Socrates

The New Paradigm

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed how we live, work, play and—most importantly for brands—how we buy. For example, REI and West Elm teamed up to create an outdoor home line to help people get safely outside during lockdowns. Right now, consumers are looking to brands for assurance and information on business practices as they relate to safety, integrity and good will. This can be done in a variety of digital ways, and brands that rely heavily on point-of-purchase will need to think about fresh ways to connect with consumers.

“Discard everything that does not spark joy.” —Marie Kondo

Simple Joy

Even before COVID-19 hit, people were looking for ways to simplify their lives and return to a more simplistic way of finding joy. Now in conjunction with The New Paradigm, people are trying to navigate this collective challenge by finding joy in the reimagination of fun. Marie Kondo, the decluttering guru, deployed videos in Japan during quarantine to help people take advantage of being stuck at home to find joy. With a focus on finding joy in the simple things, brands may need to look at their products and messaging through a new lens.

“Take your pleasure seriously.” —Charles Eames

Not-Guilty Pleasures

The change in pace and the alteration of our lives has resulted in a blurring of the places and times that people indulge in “guilty pleasures”. Indulgence can be had anytime, anywhere, and these pleasures are an important part of our new way of living. Now viewed as an essential component of self-care, guilty pleasures no longer carry the guilt they once had. Watching Tiger King in the middle of the day or eating two bowls of ice cream for breakfast are all acceptable behaviors as people navigate their days. The concept of indulgence is being redefined as as more people #quarantineandchill. For brands that operate in the category of indulgence, your time is now. For those that don’t, you must focus on ways to help people unwind and enjoy the moment despite the uncertainty of the future.

“You—and only you—are in charge of your destiny. No one else should tell you what you can do. Only you can decide that.” —Mark Cuban, Entrepreneur, Shark, NBA owner

Passionate Pursuits

People aren’t necessarily looking for experts, but rather brands and people with whom they can align with who will to guide and inspire them to take action in the face of uncertainty. Specialty and craft brands open up the possibility for individuals to become their own “expert” in a sense and pursue their personal passions. MasterClass, celebrity-taught classes on a variety of topics, experienced surge in popularity during COVID-19. Brands must reconsider their role in providing opportunities for people to explore their interest and act on their values.

Want to learn more about staying connected with your consumer in current times?
Reach out to us!

Note to Brands: People Need Assurance, Not Reassurance

As steps are taken to emerge from the coronavirus shutdown, here are some tips for brands to prove their trustworthiness to consumers!

Copyright © 2020 Big Squirrel, All rights reserved.

Fear and Consumer Behavior

Fear and Consumer Behavior

Fear and Consumer Behavior

Marketing to generational wants and needs is an ever-changing process, with trends emerging around every corner. Regardless of age, technology is no longer thought of as being a separate part of life—it IS life, so brands need to offer experiences that are The consumer space is shifting, and it’s happening faster than ever—especially in the face of recent events surrounding the novel coronavirus. It seems the only thing we can count on is constant change, whether there is a global pandemic or not. In this fast-paced world, brands need to stay in tune with more than just attitudes, values, and hopes of target audiences—they now need to focus on fears. Fear is such a powerful driver of consumer behavior that we need to fully understand it in order to meet the needs that arise from it. So far we’ve seen some major themes taking over in the new decade—and in recent weeks—and some key questions that brands must ask themselves as they explore these consumer fears.

Global Epidemics

Pandemics are as old as time itself, but in today’s age of information overload and world travel, fear of a global health outbreak, such as COVID-19, takes on a new urgency. People will look to—and demand—technological innovation in the healthcare and travel industries to protect them and keep them safe. And this even touches high fashion, with face masks becoming part of the recent Paris Fashion show. This demand for innovation for better personal health and protection spans from the world at large to inside the individual household. Even if a brand isn’t involved in healthcare or travel, brands can still share their understanding and support of world events and global epidemics that may be striking fear in the hearts of their consumers.

Key Question for Brands: How are you keeping on top of world events that may be affecting your consumers? How are you staying relevant in the lives of your consumer?

Centennials or Generation Z (Born 2000-2012)

The ethnically and racially diverse Gen Z has grown up with social media and have never lived a minute without mobile devices and technological connectivity. Like their Gen X parents, they care deeply about social responsibility and how brands meet their commitments to doing good in the world. Also known as “digital natives”, they are completely comfortable with digital interfaces in physical storefronts
Brand Tip: Begin to develop the highly personalized and targeted experiences this generation expects.

Family Health

While we certainly want to keep our families safe from global epidemics, consumers are also looking for options to help assuage their day-to-day fears of bringing toxins or other harmful chemicals into their households. We’ve seen a rise in organic cleaning suppliesorganic mattress companies, no VOC interior paint options, packaging in glass or stainless steel instead of plastics, and so forth. These shifts are driven in part by consumer demands for healthy options and in part by rising sustainability concerns. 

Key Question for Brands: If you are producing products, are you being honest about what’s in them? How can you support and inform your consumer to make better choices?

Climate Change

The majority of U.S. adults feel that climate change is the most important issue in today’s world and have deep-seated fears about the future of the planet. This has a wide-reaching effect on how brands present not only their values and beliefs, but their products. We see more and more companies moving toward recyclable packaging, sustainable manufacturing and reducing use of plastics. Many consumers are demanding that brands lower their carbon footprint on all fronts in response to fear of environmental impacts, and our future.

Key Question for Brands: What is your brand’s impact on the environment? What is your footprint and how are you communicating it?


Whether you believe in climate change or not, polarization itself is causing worry among consumers. From our government parties, to interest groups, many consumers are looking for ways to make their individual voices heard—and loudly—creating vastly different opinions on everything from the environment, to politics, to world issues. There is a fear that this polarization will lead to an inability of leaders to take action. Because of this fear of an inability to take action, consumers are looking to brands to amplify their individual power and are aligning with (and shopping) brands that share their personal philosophy. In a time when massive amounts of information are easy to come by, brands must have a clear mission in place, communicate it, and truly understand their target groups in order to drive messaging and garner alignment. 

Key Question for Brands: What is your philosophy and how can you better communicate it to your consumer?

Want to learn more about how consumer fear is impacting your business?
Reach out to us!

The Symbiotic Relationship Between Brands and Media

Check out our recent article on how brands can best capitalize on pop culture trends to stay relevant to consumers!

Copyright © 2020 Big Squirrel, All rights reserved.