For as long as I can remember, my Dad has preached the importance of a balanced life, and I used to brush him off because I never fully understand what that meant. “Son, you need to maintain balance,” and “Son, the key to success is your life balance” sounded like stale clichés until I realized that balance and its corollary “wellness” were actually at the heart of everything I sought to accomplish in life.
The overall wellness and effectiveness of individuals depends wholly on their ability to balance all dimensions of life. And I would argue that the same goes for brands – we are most effective when we focus our message on multiple dimensions of life. The true aim of marketing is not to sell stuff, but rather to create balance and wellness for people.
However, “wellness” is a vague term until we break it down into components and focus our marketing on the individual pieces.
For this, I turn to Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, who came up with six dimensions of wellness that an individual must balance in order to thrive: social, emotional, spiritual, occupational, intellectual and physical. In 1990, a marketing class at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point added environmental, the seventh dimension.
These are the dimensions that matter in marketing, and if your brand can connect its purpose with these, the public and your audience will see you as more than just the product. You can become an organization that helps the world achieve balance and well-being.
How marketers tap into the seven dimensions
The seven dimensions are tapped all the time, and in some cases, the angle is obvious. Providers of fitness equipment focus on physical wellness, colleges and universities concentrate on intellectual wellness, recruiters take aim at occupational wellness. No surprises. But what about when your brand isn’t so obviously associated with one dimension of wellness or doesn’t message properly across multiple dimensions? To be balanced, your brand has to find a purpose, align with clear values and beliefs, fuel new thinking and ultimately help people advance their well-being.
Consider Unilever, which marketers ranked as the brand with the most “purpose” in a study conducted by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA). In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Unilever CMO Keith Weed said, “I don’t think you can have separate marketing and sustainability strategies, one about creating demand and an unrelated one about reducing the negative impacts of demand.” So, Keith took command of both marketing and sustainability, and he began a mission to double revenue while simultaneously halving the firm’s environmental impact. Unilever does not have to do this – sustainability is a chosen purpose that shapes business decisions and contributions to environmental wellness.
And when you look at Unilever’s sub-brands, and you see the same deliberate choice to embrace a purpose and values that tap into the dimensions of wellness. Unilever’s brand Dove, for example, targets emotional and social health with its advertising campaigns and self-esteem programs that encourage women recognize their own beauty and feel confident in themselves. Sure, Dove could have made marketing campaigns about the importance of being clean, but who would that have inspired?
Last year, AXE, the Unilever brand known for harnessing comedy and sex appeal (physical/emotional wellness), took a stab at the trickiest dimension: spiritual wellness. A universal message of peace and harmony is not just for religious institutions, as AXE demonstrated with its “Make Love, Not War campaign.” It included a clever commercial that leads viewers to think that a bunch of dictators are about to start a world war, when instead, they just have plans to show their love to a special someone. Through the campaign, AXE raised money and awareness for Peace One Day, a nonprofit that has turned September 21 into a universal day of nonviolence and ceasefires observed by millions in conflict zones.
Help your audience thrive
As marketers, we can make decisions that serve the well being of customers and the wider communities in which we operate. We all know from experience that content can transform lives – just think about the books, essays and films that have fundamentally shifted your views and ambitions. We have a responsibility to be deliberate about what we put out into the realm of information. If it’s not connecting to a dimension of wellness, it’s probably not helping your brand.
I recommend organizing content by dimension focus. At my company Widen, which provides digital asset management software, we are starting to tag our own marketing images with metadata describing the dimension of wellness it targets. It will help us define our purpose in every piece of content, and as a result, we’re learning what dimensions of wellness inspire the best response from our audience.
With the seven dimensions, we must aim to put truth into the market. If Unilever marketed sustainability, inner beauty and world peace, yet took no action to support those causes, their campaigns would be nothing but Potemkin Villages.
The bottom line is that if you’re not communicating across these seven dimensions, your marketing is not as strong as it could be. To connect with people, make their happiness and fulfillment your true aim. Take my Dad’s advice, and balance your message to the world.