How the pandemic has prompted a raft of franchisors to diversify their messaging and promote their wellness offerings.
According to a recent JAMA Network study, the number of American adults experiencing depression during the coronavirus has tripled, with one in four people reporting symptoms. Consumers have been battered, but fortunately, some franchise brands have been able to step up and help by positioning themselves as ‘health and wellness brands’. These franchisors are pointing out to consumers that the services they provided all along can help with health and wellness. In other words, the marketing message has changed but the business model has not.
Exercise-related brands have a case to make
The North American swim school franchise, British Swim School, may not sound like a health and wellness brand as there are no doctors at the British Swim School and no nutritionist on staff. But with exercise functioning as an integral part of staying healthy – both physically and mentally – swim schools have been getting a lot of positive attention.
Moreover, according to the Centers for Disease Control, swimming may be one of the safest activities during the pandemic as there is no evidence COVID-19 can be spread to humans by recreational waters when proper chemical balance is maintained. So the schools have started emphasizing swimming as a safe and healthy exercise – a case made even stronger by highlighting its safety measures, including reduced class sizes, frequent disinfecting of equipment and health checks for anyone entering the pool deck.
Fred Astaire Dance Studios is certainly not a brand one would think of as a health and wellness brand, but like swimming, dancing is an excellent form of exercise. Many of the studios in this national dance class franchise are now teaching a new warm-up dance called the 2020ShakeOff, to “shake off” all the stress this year has dumped on us. The studios are promoting newly installed air filtration systems and instructors and students wear masks and properly social distance.
“Improved mental health and wellness is something we can all use more of right now”
“Dance reduces stress, boosts our self-esteem, helps with symptoms of depression and just makes us feel good,” says Albina Habrle, a regional director in Arizona and owner of studios in Wisconsin. “We’re so excited that the 2020 Shake is taking off. Improved mental health and wellness is something we can all use more of right now.”
Personal care services are another weapon in the fight against the pandemic blues
MassageLuXe has fared very well during these times because more people have been visiting their facilities for health reasons instead of going to a doctor or a chiropractor. While the company has always touted the health benefits of massage, it is now leaning harder into the positioning of massage as an alternative to medicine – which is what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service has said for years.
Massage therapy is used to help manage a health condition or enhance wellness. It involves manipulating the soft tissues of the body. Massage has been practiced in most cultures, both Eastern and Western, throughout human history, and was one of the earliest tools that people used to try to relieve pain.
“These days, the brand is highlighting the belief that better health isn’t a luxury”
MassageLuXe isn’t stopping there. The brand is promoting new customer education about topics such as nutrition, hydration, and a healthy diet. The franchise is also adding a wellness resource center to its website to update its clients on the latest health and wellness trends. Massage has always been a component of health, but it’s also been thought of as a luxury. These days, the brand is highlighting the belief that better health isn’t a luxury.
Frenchies, the national nail salon franchise, has had a lot of luck promoting its ‘clean and healthy’ services as a main differentiator to competitors. All brands suggest that they’re taking COVID-19 seriously, but Frenchies has always promoted health and safety – before it was cool or mandated!
In fact, the company installed a cutting-edge energy recovery ventilator like you see in hospitals that removes stale air and pumps in fresh air, critical for fighting infection. Each client has a personal ventilation system at every manicure and pedicure station. Before every service, guests and specialists wash their hands, all-metal tools are sterilized in a three-step process with a medical-grade autoclave to kill 100 per cent of bacteria and viruses.
The brand even got rid of the pedicure bowls with jets that are impossible to thoroughly clean. Instead, the organization uses free-standing basins for foot soaks with no jets or pipes to trap harmful bacteria. The company also does not offer acrylics and dips (crushed acrylics) because research suggests they’re unhealthy and unsafe.
Nature brands have a leg up on the virus
The SailTime national boat sharing franchise has exploded during COVID-19, as people seek mental and physical wellness on the water. The company has heavily promoted boat sharing as safe “health and wellness fun”, and it’s working alright. Systemwide, the company that owns SailTime, has more customers than boats to share. They’re on a mission to find more boat owners to join the franchise to keep up with growing client demand. “I’m thrilled to see all of the individuals and families that are benefiting from our unique product over the past few months,” says Todd Hess, the CEO of SailTime. “We’ve invested a lot of time, effort and technology into designing a program that opens up the world of big boat sailing in a healthy, safe and fun way.”
These businesses haven’t changed their business model – they’ve just tweaked their messaging. Not every business is going to have the same success, but right now businesses will win if they prove they can keep customers safe, while delivering physical or mental health benefits to people throughout this pandemic. No, these businesses don’t have a coronavirus cure, but they can make us feel better until we have one!
Mark Otter is president and CEO of MassageLuxe.