Therapy is all about healing. And, healing – what we do to make ourselves feel sound, healthy and less anxious – is big brand business. After spending so much time with ourselves, staying at home, working from home and social distancing, we are looking for ways to heal. We are psychologically drained.
Home-based therapy experiences that help us feel better are the new normal. Putting aside the fact that tele-therapy and app-based psychology – such as Talkspace, Calm and Headspace – are growing. Some brands are leveraging the desire for hands-on therapeutic experiences.
We are all Keith Richards now: coronavirus has unexpectedly revitalized the guitar industry.
Prior to 2019, the big guitar brands, Fender, Gibson, Taylor and Martin, were is dire straits. Gibson had filed for Chapter 11. Martin had seen sales fall by 40% by March 2020. In a 2017 interview, the guitar god, Eric Clapton, said, “Maybe the guitar has come to an end.”
Now, the four big guitar brands are having their biggest year ever, breaking sales records. For example, even though Guitar Center closed all but three of its retail showrooms, there has been online triple-digit sales growth for its top guitar brands. Fender’s CEO says this year is the biggest in the brand’s history.
This turn of events is not because we are all secretly harboring dreams of being the next Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, B.B. King, or John Mayer. It is because of the musical therapy of the strumming.
Alex Williams, writing for The New York Times, called the surge in guitar playing “… a quarantine companion and psychological balm” and “six-string therapy.” Daniel Levitin, neuroscientist, musician and author of This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of A Human Obsession (2006) supports this view. Speaking with Mr. Williams, Dr. Levitin said, “…playing an instrument can be very beneficial on many levels because of its “neuroprotective effect.” The musical process requires that new neural pathways be created, “something that can be done at any age, literally,” and, he added, “… using the brain for “something that is challenging but not impossible” is often “rewarding, and therefore comforting.”
Pet ownership was growing before the pandemic. But, since coronavirus’ appearance, pet ownership has exploded. Americans are adopting pets in record numbers.
Sumit Singh, CEO of Chewy, the online pet supply brand owned by PetSmart, told CNN, “Pet adoption has gone up. New pets have gone up. It may not be out of happiness, but folks do have time and they are craving companionship.”
Loving a pet overcomes loneliness, which has been exacerbated by being stuck at home, away from friends and sometimes away from family. Financial Times calls this feeling “lockdown loneliness.” Those delaying childbirth – especially during Covid-19 – have also propelled pet ownership. At one point during the early months of the pandemic, some pet rescue centers had run out of pets for adoptive parents.
One rescue-adoption center in Florida saw adoptions increase by five or six a month. Where the usual number of yearly adoptions has been 150 pets, 2020 looks as if the center will reach 250 adoptions.
Packaged Facts, a source for market data, in food, beverage, personal care, financial, pet products and services and demographics, published survey data in Supermarket News indicating the following:
· One in four (25%) current pet owners acquired a pet of any type (whether dogs, cats, or other pets such as fish, birds, small animals, or reptiles) in the last 12 months, with 14% acquiring dogs and 12% acquiring cats.
· 10% of cat owners, and 9% of dog owners reported that they had adopted a pet specifically because of coronavirus.
Packaged Facts estimates a 4% growth in the pet ownership household base this year, which will bring the total number of American pet-owning households to nearly 71 million, equivalent to approximately 56% of overall households. UBS, the investment bank and financial services institution, reports that about 92 million US households will have at least one pet by the end of 2023, up from 85 million in 2018.
Brands that cater to pets are having some of their best days. And, if our pets are happier, we are happier. According to CNN Wire, Nielsen market research show that e-commerce pet food sales and treats leapt to $828 million in March. This was an increase of 77% from a year earlier.
Chewy was doing well before the pandemic with 13.5 million active customers in February. Sales per customer were up 10% to $360. Chewy’s subscription-like sales metric, Autoship, rose 41% in first quarter 2020.
The Purina petcare division of Nestlé has been the largest contributor to Nestlé’s growth. Specialty brand Blue Buffalo has been the shinning star of General Mills. And, as The Wall Street Journal points out, some of the other big winners are pet health drug and veterinary services.
There are lots of data supporting the therapeutic benefits of pets. Pets can ameliorate unease and isolation. Some airports have handlers with therapy dogs roaming around the gates to assuage fearful flyers.
Petting pets is like strumming the guitar: one can get lost in the action. It is like meditation.
In October, the law firm Willkie, Farr & Gallagher hosted a webinar on “Finding Resilience in a Pandemic.” The speaker was Catherine A. Sanderson, Professor of Psychology at Amherst College. Professor Sanderson spoke about strategies for improving psychological and physical wellbeing during challenging times, such as coronavirus. She pointed to the fact that exercise and meditation can help in generating physical health and happiness.
At the heart of Peloton indoor cycling, treadmill and exercise classes is “happiness.” In its IPO documents, CEO John Foley wrote that Peloton “sells happiness” because Peloton exercising releases endorphins, which make people feel happy. Peloton’s “connected fitness experiences,” he wrote, encourage engagement and sociability in addition to “effective workouts.” But, the Peloton effect is more than just serious fitness. It is an inclusive community of “supportive, optimistic, diverse” individuals who are interested in improving their lives.
At a time of isolation, as well as the endorphin rush, the inspirational inclusiveness is especially therapeutic. Having instructors who exhort you to believe in yourself and believe in your strength works wonders for members who are exhausted by 8 months of anxiety, uncertainty and stress. Each ride is its own small, personal therapy session focusing you on being nice to yourself and asking you not to be too hard on yourself.
Isolation, working remotely, schooling remotely, shopping remotely and socializing remotely have fueled our desires to pause, reset, reassess and find ways to improve ourselves. The Wall Street Journal reports on the increase in pandemic psychology. The rise in guitar playing, pet ownership and cycling demonstrate that we strengthen our resiliency by creating our own personal, therapeutic experiences. The good news is that there are brands supporting our need for emotional healing.