1.4 Re-thinking the stories
We choose to tell
With language promising us to ‘glow’, be ‘radiant’ or experience a ‘heightened’ sense of being — the wellness world is one that’s hard not to find tempting. This fixation on the largely physical elements, as opposed to the spiritual or emotional, is arguably atypical when marketing wellbeing practices to the West.
Who does this approach to wellness serve?
In an attempt to short-cut to consumers, brands often reduce the plethora of benefits, practices and traditions to clever one liners. In doing this we not only disregard countries of origin, we also rob consumers of the full understanding and benefits of a given practice.
In the podcast ‘Decolonizing Wellness’, wellness educator Angie Tiwari, talks about Yoga as a way of life in South Asia, that is far more than holding poses to become slimmer and more toned. It’s about breathing, self-awareness and mindfulness as a part of your every day. By reducing yoga to the physical, we not only exclude those who don’t feel they fit into the ‘fitness’ world, we also rob customers of their full benefits.
By focussing on short-term functional benefits, like becoming more toned, brands also suffer by failing to show the holistic advantages of long-term use. In treating practices as passing ‘trends’ they too generate no more than short-term sales.
What stories should we tell when speaking about psychedelics?
Much like the function of psychedelics themselves, the narrative needs to be one of facilitation; of transparent information, holistic guidance and authentic storytelling. To paint a more accurate, responsible, sustainable (and in turn, compelling) picture, the following themes must inform any brand’s narrative associated with this world.
From the Amazonian use of Ayahuasca to the North American Indian adoption of mescaline and the global fulfilment of psilocybin, the history of psychedelics is rich, varied and global.
Brands need to bring to the fore those individuals, communities and stories that have played their respective roles in its narrative and progress so far — whilst finding more ways for any subsequent commercial success to be fairly distributed back.
Psychedelic use in non-western counties is rarely isolated. Often a central part of religious ceremonies, it is more often used in combination with other methods such as drumming or chanting that help ‘alter consciousness…to induce a dreamlike state and help the user communicate with the spiritual world’.
While use in Western culture for therapeutic solutions can demand care, guidance, follow up and at times, close supervision.
That might mean partnering with or creating complementary products or services that contribute to a more holistic approach. Or creating more platforms for open conversations with the key thought leaders in this area.
Whilst ancient in its origins, the West’s understanding of this field is still in its infancy — and the landscape is vast, live and active.
So for the brand and the people behind them to be truly responsible, the story must be one of honesty. About what’s known — and more importantly what’s not.
It means making the ‘small print’ large and leading. And switching the lens from the immediate benefits to the slower, yet deeper rewards when committing to a more holistic approach to psychedelics.
It’s only then that credibility can be retained and real progress can avoid being thwarted.