As Mindfulness Fades, Headspace's New Marketing Chief Sharpens Branding

It's been anything but calm at Headspace in recent weeks. It laid off 181 people -- or about 15% of its staff. It promoted Christine Hsu Evans, who had been chief marketing and strategy officer, to president. And Connie Chan Wang becomes the new senior vice president of marketing, promoted from vice president of enterprise. 

Chan Wang tells Marketing Daily about more changes ahead in the company's future.

Marketing Daily: You've been at Headspace for a little over a year, and in the new role for a few weeks. Tell us how you got here.

Connie Chan Wang: This is my dream job. I had been at LinkedIn for about a decade and came here because of my own mental health journey. About seven years ago, I went through three back-to-back miscarriages and felt so much sadness and isolation.

I come from a culture where we do not talk about mental health. It was a pretty desperate moment. Through my employee assistance program, I found a therapist who changed my life. I crawled out of the dark hole and started regaining my sense of identity. That's when I promised myself I would pay it forward, which is why I'm here.



Marketing Daily: Thanks for sharing. It's not easy to be that open and vulnerable.

Chan Wang: I realized I should have been caring for my mental health my entire life, and that's what Headspace does. We're no longer just a mindfulness and meditation app. We offer coaching, therapy, psychiatry and a much better EAP than the one I went through.

Marketing Daily: The layoffs mean you have to do more with less. What are your marketing priorities?

Chan Wang: Three things. First, evolving our brand. Second, growing our B2B business. And third, increasing our consumer base.

Marketing Daily: How is the brand changing?

Chan Wang: Headspace is well known as a mindfulness and meditation brand. I would argue that we have single-handedly revolutionized mindfulness and meditation for the masses. We have this tremendous opportunity to do the same thing with mental health, making it more accessible. It's something we should take care of every single day.

Marketing Daily: And your B2B products?

Chan Wang: That's the fastest growing. Our full spectrum of services benefits our customers' employees and health plan members. We are doubling down, and already have 4,000 clients, covering about 57 million people.

Marketing Daily: And consumers? How are they looking at stress as the pandemic recedes?

Chan Wang: The appetite for mindfulness and meditation apps is decreasing. And demand is increasing for mental health products. So we're trying to grow by investing in science-backed content and the ways we show up in culture. That includes partnerships like the Monster Meditations for kids with "Sesame Street" and Headspace X National Park Foundation, with video meditations in national parks.

Marketing Daily: Are people less stressed?

Chan Wang: No. It's just transformed. The triggers have changed. Our workforce attitude survey this year found that people feel dread when they show up at work every day. They feel like they have to do more with less. They feel the burden of the macroeconomic environment and that their jobs may be at risk. And people still believe we are in a mental health crisis and that it's worse for youth.

Marketing Daily: How are you spending your marketing budget?

Chan Wang: We're spending the most on D2C consumer acquisition, so performance marketing is big. Second is demand generation for our B2B efforts.

Marketing Daily: What are your goals six months out?

Chan Wang: One of the areas that we're investing in is unifying the brand. About a year and a half ago, Headspace and Ginger, the teletherapy app, came together, and we created this new entity called Headspace Health. So we've managed three brands. It's too complex. So in June, we sunsetted Headspace Health. In October, we'll eliminate the Ginger brand and call it Headspace Care. And Headspace is now our company name, as well as the name of the app. So in six months, we will be one consolidated Headspace-led brand. And that's setting the foundation for where we want to go: transforming and destigmatizing mental health care.

Marketing Daily: Got any mental health tips for us?

Chan Wang: I log off daily at 5:00 and do some kind of mindful movement. I go for a walk with my husband every day to give us a little time to talk away from the kids. I do a wind-down meditation before bed. I'm in the yoga studio at least twice a week and see a coach weekly.

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