Did you know there are least 4 different expressions of wellness?

A few weeks ago, Jane, Suzanne and I caught up in beautiful Gerroa on the NSW South Coast for a workshop on the semiotics of wellness and well-being. We wanted to identify how ideas of wellness and well-being are currently expressed in Australian culture. Gerroa proved to be an inspirational spot! We found that marketers of wellness products should bear in mind that there are at least 4 different interpretations of what this word and concept mean swirling around in Australian material and visual culture.

As Facebook is a place where a wide variety of people and organisations express themselves visually and verbally, we started by selecting a sample of Australian Facebook public brand pages which were described by their page owner as about 'wellness' or 'well-being’. Our sample included major brands like Blackmores and the ABC, spas and retreats, and individual well-being coaches.  

We identified 4 wellness codes from our Facebook images: Vivid, Airy, Strong and Earthy.

Vivid wellness is that sense of well-being when you are full of life and energy. It is often expressed visually through colour, movement, cluttered layouts, and close-ups.

Airy wellness is very different. It's a form of peaceful wellness characterised by a diffuse light and a sense of order.

Earthy wellness comes from a connection to the earth - all things honest, raw and organic.

Strong wellness is about well-being through muscular strength. Visually, these pages displayed torsos and limbs with a heavy use of metallic colours.

This analysis showed us that broadly speaking (and based on Facebook) Australians who promote wellness and well-being could be talking about at least four different things!

A code map showing cultural norms

From this we created a code map based on the two dimensions that differentiated these four codes most clearly. We used the code map template developed by the late Virginia Valentine in which 2 of the quadrants represent cultural norms.  Matching each quadrant on the code map with one or more archetypes and/or cultural heroes revealed for example that one of the key areas of tension in the emerging wellness/well-being market in Australia is represented by the destroyer archetype. Before this workshop, I would never have realised that part of wellness is about destruction!  Other examples of archetypes were the magical child and the seeker.

The lesson from all of this?

Of course, this is only a small sample of what we discussed.  What I can say, is that the insights we gained into wellness and well-being from this workshop would cost a client about the same as a small scale qualitative project.


If you would like to know more about Australian wellness, or about commissioning a semiotics workshop for your product or brand, Contact Sue.

Tags: Semiotics