Meditation apps are stepping out of their comfort zone to find new users


Between the news overload, the non-stop social media debates, and the damning political commentary, most people wouldn’t associate election night in America with relaxation. But this year, CNN viewers may have noticed that Calm, an app focused on meditation and mindfulness, had its fair share of screen time during the network’s most anticipated night of the year.

According to Katie Shill, Calm Marketing Director, election night advertising was a major risk.

“We debated the pros and cons of showing up that night,” Shill said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘Who is the enemy your brand is facing? The enemy we face is anxiety and stress, and we knew the election was a universally stressful time.

A new consumer focused on mental health

Since last March, consumers have been challenged to protect themselves against Covid-19 while battling a quieter pandemic that doesn’t always make national headlines: compromised mental health. And while the New Year traditionally calls for a new set of goals, consumers can’t focus on growth before meeting their own basic needs.

The start of the year is typically a lucrative time for health and wellness brands, but the start of 2021 has changed that dynamic. According to Iterable data.

This shift in mindset explains Calm’s growth over the past year: the app saw a 36% increase in downloads from January to April and reached 100 million downloads and 4 million paid subscribers in 2020.

“During this new year time, everyone is pushing you to buy new things to feel the transformation, but we’ve taken a unique approach that seems almost counter-cultural,” Shill said. “We have tools that can help you, but you have the power to make the change you want to see for yourself.”

The competing meditation app Headspace was also strategic for its brand placement this year, partnering with the dating app Hinge on. a campaign that addressed the nervousness of the first date and offering a free one-year subscription for the unemployed.

According to Sarah Neal Simpson, director of consumer marketing, the purpose of the Headspace brand has been reaffirmed throughout the pandemic, because “it has never been more important that people take care of their minds.”

Headspace also saw widespread success in 2020. App downloads doubled when the pandemic hit in mid-March, and inbound requests from companies seeking support for employee mental health increased by more than 500%, according to Simpson.

“In the past, our consumers came mainly to Headspace to combat stress, which was demonstrated by our use of content,” said Simpson. “Now we are seeing people coming to Headspace not only to combat stress, but also to help them sleep better or stay focused at work.”

After an uncertain year, marketers are ready to expect the unexpected, with 30% planning to launch a new product or service that matches the needs of consumers throughout the pandemic, according to Iterable. Headspace and Calm have shown this flexibility in their recent marketing efforts, finding new ways to reach consumers who don’t typically meditate and encouraging them to incorporate mindfulness into their daily routines.

“If 2020 has taught us anything as marketers, it’s that you have to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and throw your plan out the window,” Shill said. “We have to be nimble and ready to react to what’s going on in our culture.”



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