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It’s time for mental wellness brands to go niche

The global mental health market is estimated to be worth $383.31 billion, there is an increasing focus on mental wellness among consumers, and the number of products and services in the space is skyrocketing.


By Maggie Speciale, Executive Strategy Director at BLVR

It’s time for mental wellness brands to go niche

But the sector comes with a unique set of challenges for brands. Beyond the need to stand out in a very crowded market, there is still a lot of education and destigmatization to be done when it comes to mental wellbeing. In addition, consumers are particularly discerning and cautious about who they put their trust in, when it comes to such a sensitive topic. Brands looking to engage with and appeal to this audience need to convey credibility and expertise, even more than in other categories.

So how can these brands stand out and avoid adding to the sea of sameness? The key here is to recognize the importance of having a niche. Trying to do too many things at once often ends up backfiring and creating a watered down brand. In mental wellness especially, it’s hard to build any sort of rapport or deeper trust-based relationship with your customers if they don’t feel you’re focused on them and understanding their specific needs and goals.


Identifying a niche


So, you need to be asking yourself — what is your way in, your philosophy, your singular methodology or practice? Spending time on this type of self-reflection and identifying that niche – and then communicating it in a simple way – is crucial for brands in the sector to add value and build a sustainable competitive advantage.


A good example of building a niche through tackling a singular challenge is Reframe, a neuroscience-based app built for those looking to change their relationship with alcohol. It has clearly recognized that focusing its efforts is the key to connecting more effectively with consumers. It doesn’t deal with addiction more broadly, or even the disease of alcoholism specifically, but focuses on the singular aim of helping people ‘build healthier drinking habits’. This focus informs its entire output – from an inclusive and destigmatizing tone of voice (“we do science, not stigma”) to a clean and uncluttered visual identity and user experience.


Talkspace is another interesting example of carving out a niche. You might not immediately think of the online therapy provider as owning a niche, as there are numerous competitors offering similar services. However, it sets itself apart through its singular focus on making therapy more accessible. The founders have recognized access as a massive barrier in mental healthcare, built their company around a belief that everyone should be able to access and engage with therapy, and that mission informs everything it does, not just as a brand, but as a business.


A singular focus


While the above brands stand out by focusing on solving a particular need, others secure their place in the market by leaning into an emerging modality. Examples include Field Trip educating people on the benefits of psychedelics, Headspace popularizing the art of meditation, or Reveri dispelling misconceptions around self-hypnosis. All of these brands have taken it upon themselves to help educate around a specific mental wellness skill or discipline. Although it’s worth noting that those who go down this route have an even harder job at building trust, as they try to bring a relatively unknown modality into the mainstream and/or dispel common myths around it.


The way to convincingly own a niche and build that coveted consumer trust is to demonstrate your expertise while portraying a persona that connects with your potential users.


Mental fitness platform and community WonderMind, for example, has nailed the language and style that appeals to a younger demographic. It marries a tone of voice with functionality that adds a levity and even entertainment to the conversation around mental wellbeing. Its focus is its audience, offering the ‘Psychology Today for a younger mind’. Showing a true understanding for this group’s preferences, the platform does a great job of making the subject approachable and digestible, offering simple tools and advice to improve mental fitness.


Informing every interaction


Communicating your niche in this way is not just about tone of voice or the ‘About’ page on your website. Once you’ve identified your area of focus, you need to back it up in every single aspect of your business and every form of interaction with your customers. Otherwise, you come across as inauthentic, scattered, or simply watered down. At best, people simply won’t know what you do and will lose interest. At worst, they mistrust what you’re telling them.


Above all, if you’ve found your niche, you need to be consistent about it. It’s easy enough to claim you’re all about X, serving a specific type of person. But can you maintain that level of focus day-in-day-out? Even if it means saying no to certain opportunities or potentially forgoing customers, profits, or recognition? Are you prepared to make the hard choices and sacrifices to stay true to that niche?


As brands grow, there’s a tendency to want to expand beyond their initial vision. But that needs to be done through the lens of your niche.


That consistency and focus will ultimately convey a level of expertise and credibility that assures people you know what you’re doing and help you occupy a clear position in the market. In a field so reliant on trust, it’s the best foundation you can build for your business.

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