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3 Brands Tapping into The Anxiety Economy

As COVID rages on, young people’s mental health continues to be impacted—and brands are attempting to help with these products… 


Young consumers were stressed out before 2020, and YPulse’s State of Mind report found that 54% of 13-39-year-olds say their mental health has been negatively impacted by COVID. It’s no wonder we also found that 41% of 13-39-year-olds are interested in anxiety-reducing products like fidget spinners, weighted blankets, and other related items.

Now, mental wellness has become an entertainment trend and, as The New York Times pointed out, “everything has become a wellness product.” From cannabis and alcohol brands to toy lines and mental wellness apps, brands are shifting messaging to promises of “peace” and “relief” during stressful times. And of course brands are on top of the trend. For instance, Walmart and Unilever just launched the candle and body care line “Find Your Happy Place,” the first of Unilever’s brands that speaks to self-care. But brands that have nothing to do with wellness have also found ways to pivot their products to speak to the anxiety economy. Jewelry, for instance, is getting the wellness treatment too as some jewelry makers pivot to making more “anti-anxiety” pieces combining fidget tool functions. Even brands that would once have felt completely out of place associating themselves with stress-relief are finding ways to speak to young consumers anxiety-relief mission: Last week, we called out Pizza Hut’s partnership with Gravity weighted blankets as a smart example of speaking to stressed out young consumers with innovative takes on self-care. They aren’t the only unexpected brand to suddenly link their products to anxiety escapes. Here are three major brands finding ways speak directly to Gen Z and Millennials’ stress:

Pepsi Spa Kits 

To help quarantined customers relax at home during the pandemic, the soda company created Pepsi Spa Kits. The kits include an exfoliating cola-scented Pepsi sugar scrub, a Pepsi Blue face mask, and a Pepsi cola-scented bath bomb. To win the limited-edition spa kits, interested participants were asked to tweet #PepsiSpa and #Sweepstakes and tag one of their friends. Recently, food and bev brands have been making merch as a way to reach young customers—and they took a different approach with their spa kits. Thanks to Millennial anxiety, baths have been getting a boost since last year. YPulse’s State of Mind trend data found that 71% of 13-39-year-olds have done or are interested in trying a beauty or self-care activity to combat stress and anxiety.

Colgate’s Hum Toothbrush x Headspace 

Brushing teeth just got a little more… holistic. YPulse’s State of Mind trend research found that 33% of young consumers have downloaded a meditation/mindfulness app to combat stress in the last year, and another 30% are interested in doing so—and increasingly, brands are partnering up with these apps to reach them. One surprising example: Colgate-Palmolive teamed up with Headspace to offer weekly programming in the “Hum by Colgate” app, which connects to its line of smart toothbrushes. As part of the collaboration, Headspace is hosting “Mindful Moments” programming to help support healthier daily habits and urge toothbrush owners “to smile more often.” Hum is providing free trials to Headspace Plus subscribers and is giving customers the chance to earn “smile points” every time they brush their teeth or complete an activity inside the Hum by Colgate app. As part of the collaboration, Hum will provide free trials to Headspace Plus, the app’s subscription service for guided meditations and mindfulness exercises. Hum lets customers earn “smile points” every time they brush their teeth or complete an activity in the Hum by Colgate app. According to the companies, the partnership wants to get consumers “to observe and reflect on their thoughts” during daily routines. With their smile points, customers can buy products from its in-app store or to redeem offers from Headspace and other partners. The meditation app is also offering a 60-day trial to Hum owners who earn 200 smile points. 

Babe’s Election Night Survival Kit 

Ahead of the presidential election, 56% of 21-39-year-olds told YPulse, “The outcome of the upcoming presidential election will have a significant impact on my mental health.” In the weeks and months leading up to the election, several wellness brands offered election-themed products and their own “election survival kits.” But for the big night, Babe Wine released an “Election Night Survival Kit” to help ease the anxiety of waiting for results—which sold out almost immediately. For the $29.99 kit, the brand curated a box of stress-relief items including a stress ball, tissues, a pillow printed with “Scream Here,” and of course a bottle of red wine with the label “Polls Closing. Bottles Opening,” and a four-pack of Babe Rosé. The Instagram post promoting the kit cheekily explained, “Election night is going to be crazy AF. BABE is here with you if sh*t gets real, and we brought this kit of goodies for backup. So sit back, do what the super cute pillow says, and open some wine. We’re in this together.”