Putting Joy At The Center Of Brand Strategy

Emmanuel ProbstAugust 14, 20194 min

If happiness is a state of being which at times can be vague, joy is an intense, fleeting emotion that we experience physically, in small moments. While the pursuit of happiness is a long-term endeavor, little moments of joy are easier to find and more accessible. Ingrid Fetell Lee is a designer who has been studying joy and happiness for 10 years. As part of her research on “The Aesthetic of Joy” and for the purpose of her book “Joyful,” Ingrid teased out four key benefits of Joy: Joy is contagious. When we are in a state of joy, we are more physically attractive to other people.

For example, when we walk into a store and the associates are joyful, we will spend more time in the store, buy more things, and are more likely to return. Joy sharpens our minds. That is, people are more productive and make better decisions when they are in the state of joy. For those of us who negotiate, we are more likely to make better decisions and take the upper hand in negotiations when we are joyful. Joy opens us up to new ideas. While fear forces us to deal with things that are immediate, joy leads us to explore. Our brains become more cognitively flexible, a property psychologists call cognitive flexibility. Joy makes us more resilient. Small moments of joy have a big effect by counteracting the physical response to stress.

Where does joy come from? Some of us tend to be more introverted or extroverted, left brain or right brain, but all of us tend to find joy in the same way. Fetell Lee went on a quest for clues that trigger joy, no matter our age, gender, or race. She found out that hot air balloons, rainbows, googly eyes, and fireworks are examples of things that bring joy across generations. Objects that bring us joy have similar physical attributes, what designers call “aesthetics.” They are often round (like donuts and merry-go-rounds), have a lot of bright colors, have symmetrical shapes and repeating patterns, or are available abundantly and bring a sense of elevation and lightness. We often dismiss these things as trivial pleasures, but these are the little things that connect us to humanity.

The Role Of Joy In Building Brands

Of three brands we’ll explore that use joy in their marketing, Johnnie Walker is one of the high-profile brands that has managed to incorporate joy into its marketing efforts. The Scotch Whisky brand enlisted the help of psychologist Matt Killingsworth, a specialist in human happiness, to inform its campaign. Killingsworth’s research shows that happiness makes success more likely. Based on these findings, Johnnie Walker evolved its tagline from “Keep Walking” to “Joy will take you further. Keep Walking.” The intent is to promote the idea that starting from a place of joy and optimism accelerates an individual’s progress and success in life.

Proof that you can succeed without a multi-million-dollar budget, Primal Joy is a food company that has centered its marketing around “food happiness.” Primal Joy’s brand strategy is to convey the heart-warming feeling of home-made, natural food. Its logo is shaped as a hand-drawn heart that merges the initial of the company. Its tagline “Natural Food Happiness” is welcoming and concise. Primal Joy’s Instagram boasts colorful, uplifting pics that illustrate how to use its products in simple recipes.

In 1971, advertising executive Bill Backer envisioned positioning Coca-Cola as more than just a can of soda. He saw Coke as something all people liked in common, regardless of their origin. To bring his vision to life, Backer and three song-writers wrote “I’d like to buy the world a coke,” which feel-good lyrics treat the whole world as if it were a single person. Shortly after, he shot the “hilltop commercial” that featured young people from around the world singing the song in chorus on a hillside. The success was instantaneous: Coca-Cola received over 100,000 letters about the commercial. Some listeners even called their radio stations begging to hear it.

Case Study: Las Vegas

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas “What happens here, stays here,” also referred to as “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is one of the most famous taglines in modern tourism marketing. The campaign was created in 2003 by agency R&R Partners to promote the Vegas brand for something other than gambling. After a year of market research R&R concluded that the emotional bond between Las Vegas and its customers was freedom. Freedom on two levels. Freedom to do things, see things, eat things, wear things, feel things. In short, the freedom to be someone we couldn’t be at home. And freedom from whatever we wanted to leave behind in our daily lives. Just thinking about Vegas made the bad stuff go away. At that point the strategy became clear. Speak to that need. Make an indelible connection between Las Vegas and the freedom we all crave.

You will find many more case studies and tips in my new book Brand Hacks: How to Grow your Brand by Fulfilling the Human Quest for Meaning.

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