Every company claims they want to make their customers' lives better--but what if that genuinely is your goal?

That might be relatively easy if you're in the healthcare industry. Or food. Or social services.

But what if you're a marketing company? How can you make wellness an integral part of what you do--both in your company and for the clients you serve?

Good question (even if I asked it myself)... and one Matthew Gonnering, the CEO of Widen, a marketing technology solution that manages, shares and analyzes digital content, can definitely answer.

Here's Matthew:

For as long as I can remember my Dad has preached the importance of a balanced life. 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 clichs until I realized that balance and its corollary "wellness" were actually at the heart of everything I wanted 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.

But "wellness" is a vague term until we break it down into components so we can focus our marketing on its 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 the seventh dimension, environmental.

These are the dimensions that matter in marketing, and if your brand can connect its purpose with them, your audience will see you as more than just a product. You can become an organization that helps the world achieve balance and wellbeing.

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 there.

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 wellbeing.

Take Unilever, a company 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 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. Sure, Dove could have made their marketing campaigns about the importance of being clean... but who would that inspire?

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 that campaign AXE raised money and awareness for Peace One Day, a non-profit that has turned September 21 into a universal day of nonviolence and ceasefires observed by millions in conflict zones.

Unilever creates marketing aimed at serving the wellbeing of people... whether they are customers or not.

Help Your Audience Thrive

As marketers we can make decisions that serve the wellbeing 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 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 which dimensions of wellness inspire the best response from our audience.

Just remember that even if you embrace the seven dimensions you must always 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.

Published on: Feb 16, 2015
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