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Empathy matters to customers. And health and wellness brands seem to get it

Experts delve into the strategies and approaches that can empower all brands to think and act like empathetic brands.

Empathy matters to customers. And health and wellness brands seem to get it
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Are you feeling alright? How’s your health been? How are you really keeping?

Have you ever been asked these questions by a concerned relative, friend, or colleague? These questions have been in common parlance, gaining more significance after the pandemic. They’re questions we don’t just ask each other but expect brands to ask us. 

In fact, every brand adopting a mindset aligned with health or wellness will resonate with consumers dealing with the inflationary strains prevalent in today’s economy. 

It’s not just brands like Calm, Johnson & Johnson, and Peloton that strike a chord with consumers. More brands are thinking like wellness/healthcare brands while addressing consumers’ pain points 

“Empathy is easy in health/wellness/well-being, so let’s look beyond. KitKat is a great example. Who doesn’t need a break in the overwhelming and stressful times we live in? KitKat believes breaks are good for you. Any temporary and brief cessation of activity can be an occasion to reward yourself,” says Ashish Banerjee, Executive Strategy Director, CEEMEA at Landor. 

Before applying messaging, product development, or brand experiences through the lens of the health and wellness brands, it is crucial to first grasp the distinctive qualities that set these brands apart.

Looking at customers as humans first and not making business profitability the starting point is critical to the process, says Naheed Maalik, Partner Consultant at the Loop. “It should always be about what we can do for you, not why you should buy our product or service. That’s basic empathy,” 

According to Maalik, the biggest reward for brands that understand the consumer demographics from all angles and are clear about the specific need they are addressing is finding it easier to connect with their consumers.

“The approach is to engage the target audience and revolve around building healthier, happier, and more resilient communities. We’re leveraging well-being to solve a larger problem around healthcare and ballooning insurance expenses,” says Vaibhav Kashyap, co-founder at Wellx. 


From promoting physical vitality to fostering mental well-being, wellness/healthcare brands have captured the attention and loyalty of consumers. But what if this wellness ethos could extend beyond the confines of traditional health products and services? What if every brand, regardless of industry, could embrace the principles of wellness to better connect with their audience and thrive in the market? 

Well, not all healthy brands build trust, but the ones that do are super clear about their intentions and fiercely transparent about their mission. Then, it becomes a matter of delivering against those promises to consumers,” says  Roy Koyess, Founder of Freakin’ Healthy & Freakin’ Wholesome. 

He emphasizes the importance of cheering consumers on their wellness journeys and offering support when feasible. Building relationships with consumers one at a time is a challenging yet essential approach. Once a bond is established, communication channels open, enabling collaboration to harness feedback. Successful brands utilize feedback loops to improve product features and offerings. 

Health and wellness brands distinguish themselves not by appropriating trends but by fostering genuine empathy. While they may engage celebrity endorsers and influencers or collaborate with other brands, these efforts are not mere gimmicks but enhance the brand’s authentic connection with its audience. In an era where authenticity reigns supreme, health and wellness brands understand that trust is earned through sincere empathy, not by hiding behind superficial endorsements or collaborations. 

Circling back to the KitKat example, Banerjee says it’s about brand positioning – what they want you to think when you think about the brand. “It’s intrinsic to the way the product is consumed, and it’s the singular plank underpinning the brand’s continued success and global growth for half a century. This is ample proof that a great brand positioning idea with empathy at its core can endure and drive enduring brand success.” 

Kashyap highlights the brand’s success in utilizing authentic storytelling to foster healthier, happier, and more resilient communities through various platforms. Collaborative partnerships with influencers and wellness advocates have also played a crucial role in expanding their reach and credibility among diverse audiences.

Maalik says empathy in brand building is important in the multicultural space of the Middle East. “I’ve seen brands addressing certain nationalities or races via their key messaging or imagery, and that translates to limiting their consumer base.”

“We approach storytelling by humanizing our brand through real user experiences, successes, and transformations. By focusing on well-being’s emotional and transformative aspects, we create narratives that resonate profoundly with our audience,”  Javed Akberali, co-founder of Wellx adds.

Both suggest that other brands can replicate the achievements of empathetic brands by prioritizing authenticity in storytelling and establishing a genuine connection with their audience. 


“Healthy brands have a responsibility to elevate their game. Just by being in the healthy ‘Better-for-You’ category, you are expected to make ingredients, sourcing, and claim decisions with much more scrutiny,” says Koyess. 

According to Koyess, businesses must adhere to several key principles to build trust and maintain integrity. He suggests a few simple steps, “Be clear and transparent about your mission both internally and externally. Avoid deviating from your mission to save costs or pursue short-term gains. Keep your customers at the center of decision-making processes. Connect with your customers and meet them where they are. Provide genuine value and avoid deceptive practices.” 

As Bill Gates once stated, “If we have optimism, but we don’t have empathy – then it doesn’t matter how much we master the secrets of science, we’re not really solving problems; we’re just working on puzzles.” 

Merely making your brand a healthier version of its former self isn’t enough; now is the time to reinvent it through the lens of empathy.

The Innovation By Design Summit is being held in Doha on April 24. Attendance at the summit is by invitation only. Delegates can register here to receive their exclusive invite.

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Rachel Clare McGrath Dawson is a Senior Correspondent at Fast Company Middle East. More