Empowered by a new generation of ‘Health & Wellness’ Influencers and the internet, teenagers — and millennials — are educating themselves and taking control of their health.
When I think back to the typical early 90s lunch I ate in high-school, I remember it ended with three large cookies. The bell would ring, the plastic trays would be unceremoniously piled up, and 200 or so teens would head off to class. For me, the next 2 hours were a blur. I sat through class sluggish and unfocused while my insulin levels spiked then rapidly fell. I was unaware that my 3 cookies, while delicious, where wreaking havoc on my system. Add to this a steady stream of sugary snacks week in and week out, and it’s a miracle I retained enough information to graduate, let alone make it into med school.
Thankfully, today’s generation Zs (the Pew Research Center defines Gen Z as anyone born after 1997) and millennials (anyone born between 1981-1997) are thinking about their health and wellness differently. Whatever else the internet and social media may be blamed for there is no doubt that their utility for research and self-empowerment is unprecedented. The result has been a shift in how young people are engaging with their health. Broadly, this engagement can be broken down into three steps: awareness, research, and decision.
Awareness is simply the moment we learn something new. For a millennial that might mean a post by an influencer they follow or something engaging popping up on their Facebook feed. This awareness then sends them into the critical next step: research. This is an active exploration of a topic, and because it’s a self-guided deep-dive into the details it generates a sense of empowerment, solidifies opinions and, ultimately, helps shape the final step: decision. How and why we make a particular decision is, of course, determined by myriad factors like our history, our priorities, our biases, but a key determinant is the available information and the source of that information. For better or worse, young people today have done their due diligence through spending thousands of hours online. They have found their own ‘sources of truth’ and, more and more, these sources are emphasizing health and wellness and the effective use of supplements.
While I’m loath to name (and thereby promote) any particular influencer, a simple google search of the top ‘Health and Wellness’ influencers will generate thousands of results. Brands, in turn, are harnessing the marketing power of influencers to promote their products. The result of this cycle is the ease with which brands and individuals can now diversify their verticals: where once a brand offered only, say, skincare products, now they can offer skin care and their own premium supplement line. Brands and influencers that already have a dedicated following are branching out and promoting health and wellness products like never before. From sports performance to managing stress and skincare, consumer lifestyle brands and individuals are convinced of the power of proper, high quality supplements and their benefits for young people's long-term health. And the market is responding. A 2019 article from the Pew Charitable Trusts stated, “Supplement use appears to be on the rise among younger adults, quoting that, 'millennials are taking a shine to the use of dietary supplements as a strategy toward being healthier'”.
With Millennials projected to spend 1.4 trillion in 2020 leading health and wellness brands, along with lifestyle brands and influencers, are shifting their offerings to better reflect the priorities of these new big spenders. Because millennials tend to respond to a brand’s culture as much as with its products, building trust through authenticity and transparency are key. For example, if your brand is offering a supplement line, try focusing on its 'story': Are they made from clean, minimally processed ingredients? How are they sourced and what environmental and social impact did that sourcing have at a local level? Can they be personalized to meet specific health goals?
By asking these questions, and thereby aligning their products with this new set of consumer values, any lifestyle brand, at any scale, or any influencer can engage with this emerging, younger demographic.
Dr. Andrew Brandeis