This week, a look at wellness’s glow-up via fashion creatives. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, giving the Glossy+ community the opportunity to join discussions around industry topics.
Thanks to fashion’s top creatives turning their attention to the industry, wellness is living up to its “new luxury” status.
Since the start of the pandemic, health and wellness have come to the forefront of consumers’ minds, driving changes to longstanding behaviors. In sync, a variety of brands with a wellness slant and accessible supply chain have been popping up, increasing competition in the market. Now, established health and wellness brands are rising to the challenge and embracing new opportunities by disrupting their own routines. To do so, they’re enlisting fashion’s top storytellers with experience communicating both a strong brand heritage and innovation.
In late 2020, following executive roles at Gucci, DVF, Sies Marjan and Stuart Weitzman, fashion marketer Michael Crooks was recruited by wellness company The Better Being Co. to lead the marketing of its 50-year-old flagship brand, Solaray. Prior, the brand had done no outward marketing, focusing instead on in-channel innovation and direct education. After overhauling the supplement brand’s packaging in the first month, Crooks tapped NYC-based creative agency Matte Projects to help bring the brand into “lifestyle” territory and ramp up its consumer connectivity. Situated in “the world of hype,” according to Crooks, Matte Projects’ long list of past projects includes launching Jay-Z’s Monogram cannabis brand and Lacoste’s 2021 collaboration with Ricky Regal, aka Bruno Mars. Its clients include Tiffany & Co., Prada and Saint Laurent.
Matt Rowean, partner and chief creative officer at Matte Projects, “immediately understood the mission and how [his expertise] could bring life into this stale category,” Crooks said.
Of course, disrupting a stagnant category with a more relatable brand is not a new concept. It’s what’s driven a flurry of direct-to-consumer brand launches since the late aughts, including Away, Casper, Yeti and Warby Parker. In the vitamin and supplement space, specifically, Ritual, Olly, Hum Nutrition and Care/of are among modern brands that have come to market.
But according to Rowean, Crooks’ involvement was crucial to selling him on the Solaray project. “He knew [the value of] storytelling and other tactics stemming from the luxury and fashion landscapes,” he said, adding, “Both of us had to [navigate] how to creatively steer aspiration through an institution that had never seen anything like it before. You have to bring everyone [in the company] along for [the ride].”
Moving away from marketing focused only on product and introducing storytelling around the “relatable” notion of “living your life better” were key objectives, Rowean said.
Kicking off a long-term partnership between Solaray and Matte Projects was a campaign for summer and fall 2021 titled “Live Brighter.” It centered on a video shot in the brand’s birthplace of Utah using 16-millimeter film that was featured across the brand’s digital channels.
Also included was an experiential component of a dinner dubbed “The Light House,” held at NYC’s Waverly Inn. Attending influencers and editors were treated to a meal customized for a specific health interest, while small displays communicated the need for supplements based on food’s lack of necessary nutrients. Dinner guests’ in-depth questions about product formulations informed Solaray’s subsequent, spring-summer 2022 marketing campaign.
Crooks and Rowean said nailing the first campaign was crucial, considering its disruptive nature. It proved successful: Solaray’s 2021 revenue increased 23% year-over-year and the brand onboarded 1 million new customers. The “Live Brighter” video made the shortlist for commercial work at this year’s Berlin Commercial Awards.
“We weren’t going to do just another CPG campaign that blends in the background,” Crooks said, noting that the brand’s marketing focus “went from zero to 100” in one year. That included transitioning in-house marketers to a 360-degree strategy inclusive of a direct-to-consumer focus, plus hiring experts in skills including copywriting and establishing an asset management system.
Along with gaining traction among Solaray’s core shopper demographic, according to the company’s plan, Crooks saw an opportunity to expand its target audience. In part, that was thanks to consumers’ pandemic-driven health habits. “The 55-year-old mom in Denver, who’s the decision maker for the health and wellness products in her household, is the same psychographic as someone who’s 23, super health-conscious and living in Bushwick,” he said.
Titled “Food Is Not Enough,” Solaray’s spring campaign focused on food-to-supplement equivalencies, showing the vast amount of food one would need to consume for comparable nutrient value. It included a pop-up at NYC’s Union Square Farmers Market, as well as Matte Projects-produced “Chef’s Table”-style videos providing an up-close look at the company’s manufacturing facilities. The videos were featured on Solaray’s website and shared with influencers and editors. Shortened versions were used in connected TV ads, digital out-of-home ads, and paid and organic social posts. The OOH portion of the campaign played out in Solaray’s top markets of Chicago and NYC.
Rowean said he also saw Solaray’s potential, largely based on grocery brands’ overall lack of identity, perspective and use of strong imagery. He likened the category’s white space to the fitness world before longtime Matte Projects client Equinox “changed the look” of the industry. On that note, he said the time is right for Solaray to lean into opportunities, seeing as “wellness is a new definition of luxury.”
Solaray is sold in over 6,000 U.S. health food stores, from mom-and-pop shops to Whole Foods. Its private-equity-owned parent company, The Better Being Co., formerly Nutraceutical Corporation, owns beauty and body care brands including Heritage Store, on top of several supplement brands. In 2021, The Better Being Co. announced terms for an IPO with a valuation of more than $800 million.
Rowean stressed the brand’s owned e-commerce opportunity, considering its 3-year-old site saw a 93% revenue boost in fiscal 2022. Moving forward, Solaray will leverage influencers, including “The Today Show” nutritionist Joy Bauer, to help spread the word, Crooks said.
“Our [marketing efforts] aren’t purely creative exercises,” said Crooks. “They’re born in strategy, given the fact that third-party data is changing: It puts the onus on companies to [earn] first-party data by providing an experience and good-enough content. Especially in a commoditized industry, where most products and ingredients are the same, you stand out through brand.”