Headspace Leans Into Its Mindfulness Moment

The whole world is freaking out. And Headspace, the mindfulness pioneer, is offering a product -- peace of mind -- that’s more in demand than toilet paper. 

To amplify its voice, the Santa Monica, California-based provider of audio and video meditation instruction is offering new special content for New Yorkers, Michigan residents, healthcare workers and Cookie Monsters. 

D2C FYI talks with Deborah Hyun, vice president of global marketing, about how the brand is helping to soothe widespread COVID-19 anxiety.

D2C FYI: Headspace has been selling mindfulness meditation, a medicine for stress and anxiety, for a long time. What are you doing differently now?

Deborah Hyun: We’ve seen that with this global pandemic, there’s another pandemic: the crisis around mental health. We're seeing unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety. 

People feel uncertain, not just because of COVID-19, but potential financial and economic distress. Parents now have to work from home and manage kids.

For us, the immediate change has been putting our product into the hands of as many people as possible -- particularly those who are the most vulnerable.

We’re giving free Headspace to all U.S. healthcare professionals, as well as the National Health Service providers in the U.K. We've unlocked a bunch of curated content that we knew would help. We’re sharing our toolkits with businesses. 

Last week, we made an announcement with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo about some content that address the additional stressors New Yorkers feel, and then with Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

D2C FYI: And you also just introduced a collaboration with “Sesame Street,” right?

Hyun: Yes. We’ve had an ongoing partnership, but last week we announced Monster Meditations, new content we’ll be releasing over the coming weeks. 

We feel fortunate that we're able to reach kids. Parents are looking for ways to support their children, and they feel stressed by changing routines.

D2C FYI: Mindfulness mediation has been talked about as a wonder drug for years now, but plenty of people don’t meditate. They say, “I can’t -- it’s boring” or “I can’t seem to empty my mind.” Is COVID-19 stress making them more open?

Hyun: Over time, people have become more open to meditation and mindfulness. And we’ve been a leader in describing the benefits -- not just for mental health, but for physical well-being. We’ve done lots of research and education, demystifying it. 

A new initiative we have is Take 10, which is something we’re doing live on our social channels at 10 a.m., led by cofounder Andy Puddicombe: talking to influential people, leading a live meditation and breathing exercises. People are very receptive to taking those 10 breaths with us. 

D2C FYI: So I know you have about two million subscribers, and something like 65 million people have downloaded the app. Are the people who’ve already meditated doing it more?

Hyun: Way more. In the last 30 days, we’ve seen a 14 times increase in people using stress and calming meditations, and a 12 times increase in usage of some anxiety workouts. Install rates of first-time users have doubled, compared to before mid-March. And there’s a spike in absolute volume of usage, as well as length of time per session.

D2C FYI: Have you changed your marketing?

Hyun: Yes, in terms of tone. Just saying “Meditation works” over and over isn’t right. We’re opening up more organically, with “Weathering the storm” content. Those partnerships are a big part of that. We’re meeting people where they are with a beneficial product.

D2C FYI: Any changes in spending or media strategy?

Hyun: Not right now. We're not planning for a big brand or advertising campaign. And we're not necessarily spending more in advertising.

D2C FYI: How are you tracking people’s emotional state?

Hyun: We know people feel differently than they did a month ago, and they’ll be different with each passing week. I’m spending much more time reading information from our insights team and following our communities on social media.

D2C FYI: Headspace has been a D2C leader, a tech leader and a mindfulness leader, so right now, you’ve got a real advantage in terms of authenticity. Any advice for other brands?

Hyun: Try and stay relevant and contextual to meet customer needs. People's mindsets are changing. Be ready to pivot in ways that are dynamic and fluid. 

Companies that know what customers are looking for -- or even better, intuit what they may want next -- will win. And that comes from listening not just to what customers say to you, but what they say to each other.

D2C FYI: How are you hoping Headspace will emerge after this crisis eases?

Hyun: Six months from now, whether the macro circumstances have changed or not, I hope people will find they've created mental resilience. Because of Headspace resources, I hope they have alternative ways to cope.

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