I recently moderated a panel on marketing health and wellness to consumers at the New York Spa Alliance. As is often the case at spa industry events, the “pampering vs. wellness” debate popped up. Is pampering an important part of wellness? Or should spas avoid referencing pampering at all cost lest they be perceived as a luxury indulgence? Both sides of the debate were represented in the forum.
If you’ve read my prior articles on “In Defense of Pampering” or heard me speak on this at other industry events (video), you know that I am a passionate proponent of pampering (say that three times fast.)
Note: for other examples you could also see “Pampering is not a Dirty Word” or my recent “Hugs for Sale” article on professional snugglers (a profession I support, although I have not had an opportunity yet to experience the service.)
At the conference, Todd Walter, the CEO of Red Door Spas, showed some interesting research from the International Spa Association suggesting that spas do a good job of marketing to consumers around the top two themes that they are looking for in spas: relaxation and stress relief. But the next three consumer desires were underrepresented in our marketing: pampering, indulgence and escape. This is what consumers are looking for, but spas don’t want to market this because it sounds too frivolous.
Todd also talked about the importance of differentiation as a strategy for success in the spa industry, and I couldn’t agree more. In a side conversation, I mentioned to one of the attendees, “a spa brand could become very successful by marketing themselves as being all about pampering and indulgence.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” she replied, “everyone is afraid to market themselves around pampering.”
“That’s exactly why someone could be successful by doing it.” If everyone is going one way, someone can stand out from the crowd by offering a different perspective. Especially when it’s exactly what consumers are asking for (to test this, just do a twitter search for “spa” and “pampering” any day of the week and see what consumers have to say.)
Susie Ellis, the President and CEO of SpaFinder Wellness and the President of the Global Spa and Wellness Summit, said that the industry used to be too focused on pampering. But then the pendulum swung the other way towards wellness and this has been good for the evolution of spa (although pampering became a dirty word for a while.) But now we are being reminded that pampering and wellness are not exclusive concepts . . . pampering is also important and spas are finding the right interaction between these two concepts (certainly better than most of our other healing institutions.)
Susie’s comment holds true as I do see that more spas are marketing pampering today than they were just a couple of years ago (again, search.twitter.com.)
Spa and wellness consultant, Mia Kyricos, who was also on the panel, said wisely, “My wellness needs are different every day. One day I might know I need to eat better or exercise more. But some days I might just feel ugly and the best thing I can do for my wellbeing is a beauty treatment. Or maybe I just need to do something that feels good.” Wellness is personal, and there are many paths to achieving it.
Pampering is not only about indulgence. Sometimes, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
So how do we know when pampering is an important part of wellness or a frivolous pursuit? Maybe it has to do with the intention behind it and how mindful it is. My favorite comment of the day came from a member of the audience, Sallie Fraenkel (also from SpaFinder Wellness,) who said, “There is such a thing as pampering on purpose.”
by Jeremy McCarthy