What is the next ‘it’ after well-being?
By Jane Han
NEW YORK ― So after a decade of ``well-being,’’ arguably the most overused marketing buzzword in Korea, the country has finally decided to move onto to the next big thing: healing.
From snacks and cosmetics to books and even restaurant menus, now everything is about healing the mind, body and soul. Clearly, a fresh and powerful trend is in the offing, ready to capitalize on a market that was in desperate need of something new.
But in the U.S., healing isn’t anything new.
As a buzzword, it has been around for years, successfully appealing to people who need, well, healing.
``In this incredibly fast-paced information age, we’re finding ourselves becoming more and more disconnected,’’ says Melinda Hynson, a psychologist and therapist based in Connecticut. ``Money, power and even extramarital affairs are failing to satisfy our truest and deepest needs.’’
This sense of dissatisfaction and desire for something less materialistic and more spiritual has led to the big search for healing, says Hynson.
So what is the American way of healing?
Everything from yoga and meditation to aromatic spas and plant-based diets promise people a chance to reconnect with their inner self, all of which continues to show growth right through the current recession.
The U.S. spa industry posted $12.8 billion in revenue for 2010, up four percent from 2009, according to the International Spa Association.
``In times of economic tumult, nothing is more important than your health and keeping a peaceful mind,’’ says Alice Choi, a spa therapist in Manhattan. ``People are realizing that money is important, but living well and caring for yourself and others comes first,’’
The same applies in Korea, but the only thing there is that the marketing is on steroids.
Not only do you have the typical range of wellness offerings, you also have shoes, soap, lotion, sodas and all kinds of everyday necessities labeled as different types of healing solutions.
Even event organizers and travel agents are headlining their concerts, shows and travel packages with the word ``healing’’ to attract anyone and everyone likely to be in need of a little touch of care.
``It’s a whole new industry that’s emerging,’’ says Kim Mun-cho, professor of sociology at Korea University.
``But everyone has their own needs and problems, and their own way of healing,’’ he said. ``So it is a tricky business trying to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution. Is all of this sustainable? I’d say it’s unlikely.’’
Experts in the U.S. responded likewise to the newest strategy from Korean marketers.
``Healing can certainly be commercialized but you really have to demonstrate a reason why and how something works. You can’t just slap on a label and call it a healing solution,’’ says Lisa Lastowka, a marketing consultant for corporate wellness programs.
Unlike other marketing buzzwords, healing is something people experience from deep within, she says.
``It’s not a one-time fad,’’ said Lastowka. ``In the U.S., it’s a consistently growing industry that will probably expand even more as people continue to battle with competition and higher stress levels.’’
Some observers say wellness buffs will play a big role propping up the healing industry but individuals who are in a fling will move on fast.
``After enough hours of relaxing, self-reflecting and letting go, it’s human nature to return to competition and challenge. That’s our instinct,’’ says Robert Dunne, a New Jersey-based psychotherapist.
``Once we regain strength and energy from all that relief, what do you think is the next obvious step? It’s to go back out and conquer,’’ he said, adding that a period of healing is necessary, but not lasting.