The rite of passage for youth used to be about going wild. Today they “Get Mild.” In their free time, individuals embrace leisure defined by moderation, health, and relaxation. Here are four provocations on the new youth wellness culture.
I. Generation Control Freak
Today’s youth have been branded as a group of swipe-culture flakes and noncommittal side-hustlers. But we would argue, youth today are actually a generation of control freaks.
And it makes sense. Uncertainty and insecurity define their world. Devoid of traditional milestones like home ownership, they lack a clear and linear path forward. Without a societal guiding force and a bleak future ahead, they look to what they can control themselves right now for a less-anxious mindset.
This rise of discipline in wellness and in alcohol-reduction trends among millennials is, to a degree, driven by a need for control in the face of mounting student debt, rent crises, etc. We see this in Europe, Africa, and the U.S.
— Aleesha Tully, TBWA\Dublin
Clean beauty brands like Typology grow in popularity as consumers look to products that give them control over what they put on their skin. A UK study from Opinium shows that 75% of Gen Z feel it is “important to be in control of all aspects of their life at all times.” This self-controlled behavior is leading to a healthier, safer youth culture compared to the shagging druggie ravers of old.
Managing stress and mental health are priority wellness concerns. So, as Global Web Index ranks financial worries as the top cause of stress for consumers in the UK and the US, we expect to see a continued growth in saving, aspiring F.I.R.E retirees, and financial wellness technology.
Feeling in control is a new youth lifestyle and cultural value. Today’s Generation of Control Freaks will look to businesses that reduce stress and make them feel calm and in control.
This means when it comes to work, they’ll seek stability and upward growth in a company. New hobbies and leisure activities that contribute to a sound mind will win free time. And, putting money in the bank will become a priority with an increased interest in financial wellness.
Brands should seize the opportunity to pair up and bring wellness concerns under one roof. Expect to see fitness and meditation brands pair up with financial apps. Think…what if Headspace partnered with Mint?
II. Death of the Party
Good-bye to late nights, glamorized reckless behavior, and boozing to break the ice. Drunkenness has lost its cool.
Sobriety, sexlessness, and staying-in all signal a shift to healthier, cleaner lifestyles. But they also sound off a proverbial record scratch. As individuals prioritize health, able brains, and emotional well-being, wellness reshapes the next era of partying.
Getting up early to run a Tough Mudder race or go to a spin class is the new staying out until 4 a.m. to catch the latest DJ set.
— Skift 2019
Partying used to mean binge, booze, and bars until 2 a.m. But now, from the rise of teetotalism clubs at European universities to the explosion of homebody cozy culture, individuals are opting out of out-on-the-town or looking for a different option altogether.
While booze is accessible from a young age in Belgium, a new study from the Federal Health Center reveals Belgians drink less in general these days. A sober market is growing to mirror this global shift. Alcohol giants increasingly hop on the “no-low” bandwagon, while other beverage companies look into a future of CBD and THC. According to Zenith Global, canna-beverages are expected to be a $1.4 billion market by 2023.
In her recent book, Sober Curious, Ruby Warrington says reduced alcohol intake “is the next logical step in the wellness revolution.” She emphasizes the absurdity of a day filled with exercise, meditation, and green juice followed by a night of hammering your liver at the bar.
From sober-social happy hour to post-workout refuels—future socializing, nightlife, and drinking occasions will be defined by wellness. These new forms of celebration and coming together will fix a culture of disadvantageous binge.
Brands can help redefine the idea of “partying” with wellness in mind. We predict party-mainstays will have to evolve with the times. What if fitness-nightlife replaced bar-hopping?
III. Health Hedonism
Going on a Netflix bender has a new rival: the self-care spree. LED face masks and lathering CBD lotion are new Friday night fixes; while dietary supplements, DIY detoxes, and micro-workouts à la Face Gym have become daily indulgences.
In western countries, health is something individuals tend to ignore until they’re older, when paying close attention turns nonnegotiable. Now we’re in the era of competitive self-care. As the idea and fun of taking care of ourselves mainstreams and democratizes in accessibility, health goes from overlooked to a pursuit of pleasure.
Hedonism gets a bad rap in our pleasure-espousing society. And yet, despite all its connotations with frivolity and danger, the word simply describes the philosophical belief that pleasure is a worthwhile pursuit.
— Quartz, 2019
Less sex, drugs, and screen time doesn’t mean millennial hermits have turned their backs on pleasure. Sites such as Into the Gloss and The Cut allow us to follow individual beauty regimens in obsessive detail. From FitBits to Sleep Monitors, water bottles that monitor our hydration to necklaces that improve posture, health data has become a hobby horse.
And now, sleeping and bathing are treated like cooking in the kitchen. Increasingly, we’re spending more time and money outfitting our beds and our baths than our bodies. An explosion of products and increased interest in self-care have made once mundane routines a science of how to unwind and luxuriate.
As we accessorize our daily routines and splurge on self-care, home becomes the new wellness retreat. Personal health is taking precedence in our lives. Pleasure is now guilt-free.
Products once considered unrelated to health and beauty are defining themselves within the wellness space. Recently, mini-fridges rebranded as beauty fridges give the skincare obsessed a place to store their preservative-free beauty products. Now more than a mattress, Casper is setting its sights on changing the sleep business—offering a suite of products and services for what they call the “Sleep Arc,” from lights off to lights on.
An opportunity exists for business to reframe home-brands for wellness. Boring, domestic products tap in. Cleaning products and bed sheets, this is your moment. What if a toothbrush brand rebranded brushing as a micro-workout, or if vacuums were made to enhance our sonic wellness.
IV. New Wellness Icons
Who are the new cultural icons of 2020? We’d like to point to a professional napper. The world’s first sleepfluencer, Alex Shannon @FollowtheNap, symbolizes a growing desire to loosen up the healthy way.
Historically, culture has put on a pedestal those who demonstrate sacrifice. But the rise of slacker style, sobriety, and homefluencers represent a shift in cultural values from the go-getter and optimizers, to those who take care of themselves and know how to relax.
Who have we put up on a pedestal in society? We’re putting up entrepreneurs, business people, celebrities… But when you look at the lens through which we’re celebrating them, we’re always saying ‘look how hard they’re working.”
— Monocle 24, 2019
Granny-Chic Knitters, Sober Mixologists, and Competitive Relaxers are the new aspirational figures. Celebrities like Taylor Swift, Mila Kunis, and Alessia Cara—who publicly tout their JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) lifestyles— have contributed to the growth of stay-home as a point of pride. Instagram hashtags like #SoberCurious, #SoberSaturday, and #SoberIsSexy connect an ever-growing community of individuals who don’t care to drink. And, even performance promoting sport giants like Nike have activated on this desire to “take it easy” with their new commercial “Runner’s High” featuring Illana Glazer. “Just do it” has become just do what you can.
Now, when we ask ourselves what behaviors build a life of aspiration, try hard and sacrifice all doesn’t seem so attractive anymore. Instead, self-care, nourishment, rest and relaxation are the golden rules to long-term success.
Brands and businesses should tap into icons and influencers who represent this shift in aspiration. We expect that people will shift away from products and brands that tout performance, speed, multi-tasking, and life on the edge. Think jogs over sprints, Volvo over Bugatti, bullet juicer over bullet journaling.
Special Report on Get Mild brought to you by Backslash
Strategy: Cecelia Girr, Sarah Rabia
Production: Yareli Morales, Pat McGuinness, Jason Lauckner, Chay Lee
Operations: Dana Fors, Alexander Landau, Christian Stein
Aleesha Tully — TBWA\Dublin
Audrey Dahmen — TBWA\Belgium
Cecilia Vallini — Teran\TBWA
Ekta Parsotam — TBWA\South Africa
Georgia Garrett — TBWA\Chiat\Day\LA
Karen Falk — TBWA\Chiat\Day\LA
Nikolaos Kirkinis — TBWA\South Africa
Ntombi Malaza — TBWA\South Africa
Yvonne Caplice — TBWA\Dublin