How Theragun Became a Social Media-Fueled Wellness Flex

Beloved by athletes and fashion editors alike, and sold everywhere from Best Buy to Nordstrom to Goop, Theragun just relaunched with a new name and lots of new products.

In addition to your futuristic Dyson Airwraps, creepy LED masks, massive ring lights and other expensive beauty devices, one tech-enabled tool that's become ubiquitous on social media is the Theragun. The powerful handheld massager initially became known for its ability to aid in recovery for elite athletes post-workout, but today it's being used by seemingly everyone who can afford it. Even I, someone who "hikes" (walks outside) occasionally and barely makes it to hot yoga once a week, can't help but think, 'wow, that looks like it would be nice to have,' when I see someone using it online. It's become such a wellness flex that Emily Oberg even styled one into an editorial for her Sporty and Rich Wellness Club project.

According to Dr. Jason Wersland, the licensed chiropractor who invented the Theragun in 2007 after a traumatic motorcycle accident left him with muscle and nerve pain, the first-of-its-kind percussive therapy device was always intended for this universal use. While the professional athletes Wersland treats were among the first to spread awareness of the Theragun, he says more than 50% of people use it for non-fitness-related pain.

With a relaunch and new product line debuting Monday, Therabody, as the company is now called, hopes to better reflect that ethos and appeal to those non-athletes who may otherwise be intimidated by the percussive device.

"It's a misnomer that it's just for athletes," Wersland tells me at the company's modern new headquarters in Los Angeles, pre-quarantine. "Our goal is really so that everyday people can experience the tension relieving benefits from these products."

Before the relaunch, retail and social media helped the Theragun expand beyond its fitness roots and appeal to a wide range of consumers. "We've been able to get into non-fitness retailers like Revolve, Goop, Bandier, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom," explains CEO Ben Nazarian. "It's unique in that I don't think there's many products that [are sold] in Best Buy, Dick's, Nordstrom and Goop."

Dr. Wersland and Nazarian pursued these female-targeting luxury retailers precisely to expand the brand's user base, though it wasn't an immediate sell. "It took a while for us to explain to them the uses, including everyday muscle tension, sciatica and plantar fasciitis. These are common use cases for their shoppers."

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The brand also exploded on social media. Much of this has been thanks to organic user-generated content on a platform, where people love to share their fitness and wellness practices, but the company has also built community engagement into its social media strategy, making it a priority to spark conversations with its own Instagram posts and interact with followers and customers as they reply or share their own Theragun content. The company, which has 309,000 followers, confirms it sees sales coming directly from Instagram. "It's a great platform to educate consumers about the benefits of Theragun. And people go to our website to learn more about our products," says Nazarian.

Along with a new name, Therabody is also debuting a new suite of products. There's the fourth generation of its percussive therapy devices, including the Theragun PRO™ ($599), Theragun Elite™ ($399) and Theragun Prime™ ($299), all of which are much quieter to use than previous iterations. (Past versions sound power tool-esque.) They're also all Bluetooth-enabled to integrate into a new Therabody app, which delivers guided treatments that are easy to navigate to based on your concerns — a concept that's become increasingly popular with beauty devices. The app will literally guide you through a routine, with the Theragun itself pulsing like an electric toothbrush each time you're meant to move it to a new spot. The brand also launched a smaller, more portable device called the Theragun Mini; at $199, it lowers the product's barrier to entry. With more ergonomic grips and enhanced controls, the goal is to make these devices easier than ever for anyone to use on their own at home.

But perhaps most significantly, Therabody is expanding outside of devices with a range of topical and ingestible full spectrum hemp-derived CBD products called Theraone. And like so many CBD startups, Therabody's founders are emphatic that in today's overcrowded CBD landscape, their formulations stand out.

For one, they are USDA certified organic, evidently rare in the CBD space, and the result of 18 months of research and development. Rather than source the ingredient from an unknown supplier, the brand controls the supply chain from the Colorado hemp farm to the bottle, using its patent-pending Biosorb Technology to preserve efficacy, consistency and stability. The line is already pretty expansive: There are CBD lotions for pre- and post-activity, a body balm designed for muscle pain; an ingestible tincture that promotes sleep and a relaxing massage oil.

Dr. Wersland says the line was born out of his desire to use CBD on his clients, and struggle to find anything high-quality and consistent. "Our mission is to educate people on what makes CBD effective," says Nazarian. "Our customers trust us and if we don't keep that trust we lose everything. We've built everything to a very, very high standard. We hope we raise the bar for the rest of the industry."

This relaunch seems to take Therabody further from the fitness world and into the beauty and wellness space. When I ask whether they define it as a wellness company, Nazarian is eager to clarify: "There are a lot of wellness companies out there, we consider ourselves to be a tech wellness company." But what does that mean? Having its own proprietary CBD strain and processing technology is one example of that, he says.

"It's using that technology to develop a product that helps somebody live a better, healthier lifestyle, and backing that up by science and research to show that it's true," he continues. "A lot of wellness companies say a lot of things, but what does it really do and where's the backup?"

The company decided to postpone the launch of Therabody — initially planned for early March — due to the Covid-19 outbreak (during which it's been donating devices to hospitals, as well as contributing meals through Feeding America). While the company will be focusing this launch more on its e-commerce channels than it may have initially planned, it's fortunate for them that consumers' wellness and fitness activities haven't really dissipated amid quarantine. Overall, at-home fitness equipment sales have actually grown exponentially since stay-at-home orders were put in place.

So prepare to see even more Theragun products in your Instagram feed in the coming weeks; even those of us who aren't engaging in strenuous workouts could use a nice at-home massage right about now.

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