Welly’s Eric Ryan Says Coronavirus Will Alter People’s Relationship With Health Brands

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Among the many common household items presently seeing a boost in demand during the coronavirus outbreak, from hand sanitizer to toilet paper, are bandages and first aid kits. In the four-week period ending March 28, year-over-year sales of bandages were up 24%, while first aid kits increased 119%, according to data from Nielsen.

For Welly, the brightly colored first aid brand that just turned a year old, the timing has been rather fortunate. Sold exclusively in Target stores and on Target.com throughout its first year, as well as its own website, Welly has generated more than $10 million in sales, the company said. Welly’s products are now also available on Amazon.

“We’re definitely one of those few businesses that is not being negatively impacted by this,” said Eric Ryan, co-founder of Welly.

Revenue aside, Ryan said the current crisis has brought about a “tremendous opportunity” for those in his industry, as young shoppers especially have already largely moved toward defining health as a lifestyle pursuit.

“For all consumers across every generation, their relationship to health and health brands is going to change,” he said. “This was already happening, but now it will be accelerated.”

Ryan is a serial entrepreneur with a record of success. In 2017, S.C. Johnson purchased his cleaning brand, Method. In 2019, Unilever acquired his line of gummy vitamins, Olly.

His approach to creating a new brand involves looking at shifts in culture that big categories with established business models are missing. “That space in between—that’s a business opportunity,” said Ryan. In the era of Instagram, an injury is a trophy of a well-lived life.

The challenge for brands like Welly, which offers bandages, antibacterial ointments and packets of hand sanitizer in metal tins, is how to take advantage of the present moment without exploiting it in a way turns customers off and harms the brand’s reputation.

The company has not altered its marketing budget in response to the coronavirus. For Ryan, the key is to be helpful without being self-promotional.

“We’re mirroring how we’re all feeling right now and being authentic,” he said. “I think that’s what’s most important.”

Despite the fact that certain companies are experiencing strong organic demand for their products, brands shouldn’t necessarily slash their marketing budgets.

“Consumers want to know that brands are taking care of their employees and helping to address the coronavirus situation,” said Barry Lowenthal, CEO of media planning and buying agency The Media Kitchen.

If anything, brands should alter their messaging as opposed to going silent, he advised.

“That’s not the way to build relationships with customers, by walking away,” Lowenthal added. “You build a relationship by showing up.”

Ultimately, Ryan said Welly is focused on the long-term view, as opposed to being overly reactionary to the current crisis, which can lead to mistakes.

From the start, Ryan wanted Welly to exist at the intersection of prep and play. “Great brands have tension, and those two things usually don’t go together,” he said. “Health should not be about anxiety; health should be a source of joy.”

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