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Six years ago, McCann Worldgroup’s global intelligence unit, Truth Central, identified a chasm in the world of healthcare: people were themselves defining wellness in a much broader way than frankly any of the healthcare companies. If society collectively activated on this ’truth’, we would likely have been far better prepared for the full range of health implications wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whether based on growing frustration towards their local healthcare providers or via the merging of eastern and western philosophies and practices that had become increasingly globalized, our research showed that people had already understood that wellness was far more than physical. They defined it as mental, emotional, financial, societal and even communal. They had created their own interdependent and connected systems. Systems that were proactive rather than reactive. So much so that one-in-three believed they could diagnose themselves. Doctors had lost their prime position as the sole healthcare/wellness conduit or advisor.

This was crucial. Had we understood and embraced a new system or set of systems with regard to how people were approaching their personal health, we may have fared much better in the face of the current pandemic. At the same time, it’s encouraging to see the scientific, medical, public and private sector businesses and communities collaborating like never before, creating a new wellness system for us all. Perhaps an understanding of the ’Truth About Wellness’ has finally arrived – if a bit later than we had hoped.

That’s the thing about research… every so often you come across a piece of data that is telegraphic if not prophetic. Valuable insights reflect deeper trends/currents beneath the surface that, if heeded, can improve our collective way of life and move society forward. It was a miss to not activate on the data we had about changing attitudes around and approaches to personal health. Lesson learned.

Since conducting our ’Truth About Wellness’ research, we’ve identified a number of prescient insights that, provided we activate on them, might drive societal behavior and inform how we approach and appreciate the world around us today and tomorrow:

  • The power of global brands: 81% of people globally believe that brands have the power to make the world better and, more recently, we’ve found that people trust them far more than they do government. To us, this is an indication of the breakdown in the systems we used to rely upon and an understanding that when brands deliver products and services to 60+ countries every day, they can be the new systems of reliance and agents of change. What brands do with that latent power and opportunity is incredibly significant as we forge ahead into recovery and renewal on a global, unprecedented scale.
  • Wellness... it takes a village: Gone are the days when wellness and personal health was simply a doctor/patient dynamic. 41% of people globally believe that wellness is a societal issue, not an individual issue, and 55% read about their symptoms on the internet before going to the doctor, with a quarter of people trusting information on wellness from social networks (ie Facebook and Twitter) more than their doctor. This is as true for mental health as it is for physical... one-in-two people globally say that talking about problems with their mental health is hardest, even if it’s with people who are really close to them (more so than problems with their sex life, money or physical health). Health and wellness brands have both the opportunity and responsibility to play a more crucial role in people’s lives than ever before.
  • The action generation: Ideals like justice and knowing what is right and wrong are absolutely central for younger generations in how they live their own lives as well as what they expect from brands. A crucial insight from our research was that, when asked what they want to be remembered for, Gen Z respondents said for changing the world in a positive way. The data from our ’Truth About Gen Z’ study shows that they want brands to share their values – for instance, 73% of Gen Z globally believe that brands have a responsibility to promote diversity. This is an action generation, where words are not enough. Brands seeking to connect with this coveted cohort must find organic, impactful ways to join in the fight for a better world, while remaining authentic to their values and identity.
  • The many definitions of diversity: Diversity is not binary… it means very different things to different people. For instance, in many countries, like the US, Canada and Australia, diversity is mainly about race. But that changes throughout the word with different countries defining the term differently, for example: LGBT+ (Brazil, Chile); income (China, Russia, UAE); religion (India, Philippines); urban v rural (Japan), and so on. With a quarter of people globally believing that social divides are a greater threat then Covid-19, assuaging or amplifying our differences hinges on brands and broader society understanding what diversity means to each audience.

In my work, insights are gold. They tell us what people need, what cultural trends are taking root, how the world is changing and how our clients can get ahead of them to play a meaningful role in people’s lives.

Sometimes, a truth is so big it has the potential to do more than change the way a brand markets and alter the way we all live our lives. The key is to see that potential and act on it.

If we had done so years ago, we could have been ready for Covid-19 before it even existed. If we do it right now, we’ll be far better prepared for whatever comes next.

Suzanne Powers is the global chief strategy officer at McCann Worldgroup.