How to remix the wellness model for Gen Z

type - big idea
Big Idea
sector - health & wellness
sector - media & technology
sector - youth
Stephen Mai, the founder of Woo, a next-gen media brand merging content and retail, on how gen z wellness can be reframed as feel-good culture

Let’s begin with Woo. What is it?

Woo is a new media and culture brand redefining wellness for Generation Z. It aims to make mental health and wellbeing solutions more aspirational, culturally relevant and democratic. It's merging things like pop culture and wellness, taking anything that Generation Z are passionate about and packaging it in a way that is relatable – not alienating or cheesy.

I’ve always been interested in how entertainment can shift cultural narratives, but the challenge for me was: how do you create a media proposition without things like advertising revenues attached? How can you scale a model without access to those funds? That’s how Woo came about. It’s a media proposition that's underwritten by a marketplace.

How does Woo’s content differ from what’s currently out there?

I wanted to shake off any preconceived notions of wellness. We found that Generation Z have a slightly negative perception of wellbeing, the ‘Goop’ connotation. They often say, ‘it’s not for me’ or ‘it’s a bit weird’. But, while Goop isn’t for everyone, it does have some very practical and helpful content. So, when we’re working with directors and pitching ideas, we avoid the typical wellness subjects, and really look at the ‘woo woo’ stuff. We’re looking for content that will not only make us a wellbeing brand, but also a culture brand.

Published by:

20 June 2022

Author: Olivia Houghton and Kathryn Bishop

Image: Woo, UK


Woo, US

Can you give us an example of the type of content we can expect?

We have created three distinct shows. Each show aims to help the audience think about wellness in a different or more interesting way. Nature’s Calling, for example, a Wes Anderson-style film capturing an adventure to a cold-water swimming lake, was about entertainment first and mental health second. We wanted to communicate how cold-water swimming could affect both your physical and mental wellbeing. Our birdwatching film is about disconnecting and engaging in something interesting other than your phone. While Lacking Love is positioned as the real-life Euphoria – an intimate film following couples across the gender and relationship spectrum. It subverts everything you’d expect. At the core of the show are real human relationships of people with nuanced personalities, not just mainstream caricatures, so you actually learn a lot about things like sexuality and sex work.

How will you reach your target audience?

Woo follows a platform-agnostic strategy, meaning we go wherever Gen Z are. Our media play isn’t about monetisation, it’s about driving brand credibility. This allows us to try and grab their attention wherever they are, as opposed to trying to convert them from the wider net. We’d love to get our content on streaming platforms or in cinemas, for example.

On the other hand, our partnership with ITV is interesting because it means we have the potential to convert audiences who may not be interested in wellness. At present, wellness generally leans towards more women and upper middle class, but our goal is to rework content to appeal to different audience segments across each of the different channels we’re going to be playing in.

‘I’d love to see other brands use this culture of wellness and make it more aspirational. I’d love to see Gen Z talk about wellness in the way they talk about music festivals’

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