Calm in the Storm

Meditation and mindfulness apps saw a spike in usage after the global pandemic hit. In the seven days beginning March 29, two weeks after the start of the lockdown in the U.S., downloads for such apps were up 25% from the weekly average in January and February, reaching 750,000 downloads, according to App Annie figures cited in The Washington Post. The researcher noted that Android users were spending 85% more time than usual using mindfulness apps that week.

Even before the lockdown in the U.S., interest in meditation apps was on the rise, with searches up 65% in February of 2020 compared to the same time the previous year, per Google Data.

A large number of meditation and mindfulness apps are on the market, with 2,500 launched since 2015, according to app developer Appinventiv. In the context of this crowded landscape, some of the leading purveyors have been forging content-licensing deals with a range of properties and brands to differentiate themselves and boost discoverability:

  • Headspace was one the earliest and has been one of the most active entrants into the licensing arena, going back to 2018. Its current partners include marketers such as Nike and Weight Watchers, sports entities from the National Basketball Association to Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer, and entertainment properties such as Sesame Street. The last partnership, announced in April, involves six short Monster Meditation videos, the first four of which had more than 11 million views and 185,000 hours watched as of mid-June, according to Sesame Workshop’s Scott Chambers in a presentation during Licensing Week Virtual.
  • Calm, also an early and active player in licensing, has been boosting its portfolio of relationships of late, working with entertainment properties, celebrities, retailers, and more. IP featured in deals with Calm this year range from Mattel’s Thomas & Friends to singer Harry Styles, and in early 2020, it worked with Macy’s and Story to create in-store meditation spaces. Looking back a few years, it signed with the nonprofit group (RED) in 2017 and the Bob Ross estate in 2018. It offers a variety of celebrity-led meditations with Kelly Rowland, Matthew McConaughey, and others.
  • Smiling Mind, an Australian app, has a variety of partnerships in place with brands, mostly focused on expanding distribution. But its relationship with entertainment distributor Roadshow includes an app featuring content from The Lego Movie 2.
  • Stop, Breathe, and Think, which was purchased by Meredith in October 2019, collaborated with actress Ali Larter to launch a new children’s brand extension, with content for kids ages 5-10. Synergies are also starting to occur with Meredith magazine brands; Skilled Creative launched an Alexa skill in March that is a Real Simple-branded guided introduction to meditation, created in collaboration with Stop, Breathe, and Think.
  • Inspace debuted a mindfulness app with beer brand Stella Artois called StellaSpace. The brand says it uses mindfulness techniques to maximize the occasion of drinking a Stella, guiding the drinker to focus on being present and truly enjoying the experience. Actor Luke Evans narrates the 20-minute audio guide, which can be used alone or with friends.

As the meditation app space becomes increasingly crowded, it is likely that more brands playing in this sector will consider pairing with licensed IP as a way to stand out from the competition and entice new customers. Licensors’ growing interest in playing in the health, wellness, and self-care spaces—across mind, body, and spirit—will also contribute to this trend.

Raugust Communications’ July e-newsletter goes out next Tuesday, July 21, 2020. The Licensing Topic of the Month will examine the nuances of changing a well-established name, from a licensing perspective, as brands, musical acts, sports teams, and more reconsider the appropriateness of offensive names in the wake of the George Floyd killing. The Datapoint research highlight will analyze the growth of streaming TV properties available for licensing over the past three years, a timely topic in the COVID era. If you do not yet subscribe to the newsletter, you can do so here.

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