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Insights

THE HAPPINESS CHALLENGE

05 January, 2011 - Source: McCann Manchester

So the government is going to measure our happiness. And a new charity is being launched, ‘Action for happiness’, inviting us to ‘Join the movement. Be the change.’ Oh, and the BBC wants us to have a go at the ‘Happiness Challenge’.

So the government is going to measure our happiness. And a new charity is being launched, ‘Action for happiness’, inviting us to ‘Join the movement. Be the change.’ Oh, and the BBC wants us to have a go at the ‘Happiness Challenge’.

Happiness is certainly up there on the national agenda – and there’s lots more action to come on this in the Spring. Maybe this is a good time to reflect on the part we play as a marketing community. I’d like to pose (and attempt to answer) two questions:

1. Can we as marketing people contribute to the sum total of people’s happiness?

2. Are we about to see an era of ‘happiness marketing’?
You’ll notice that the answer to the second question could be ‘yes’ even if the answer to the first is ‘no’.

At McCann Manchester, we’re really interested in the growth of ‘smile’ marketing. There’s an awful lot of it about – stuff that puts a smile on your face. I don’t mean the ‘delighting the customer’ mantra of the business textbooks. I’m talking about marketing that sets out to put an immediate smile on people’s faces. Think Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food, or Barburrito putting the face of an ‘ass’ on each bar stool. McDougalls Upper Crust pies have enlisted the help of Armstrong & Miller in firing pies across the channel at the poor deprived French. Tyrrells reinforced their positioning by offering a Massey Ferguson tractor as a competition prize. And it’s working. Ben & Jerry’s sales value is + 24% and Tyrrells + 38%. McDougalls sales growth is probably sky rocketing too.

We’ve always known there was a positive correlation between strong advertising creative and business success. The recent Thinkbox/IPA study shows great creative campaigns are 11 times more efficient. Our own analysis suggests a strong relationship between marketing effectiveness and finding an ownable way of putting a smile on people’s face. And I’d argue a smile is the expression of at least a moment of happiness.

President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron and other world leaders (see theElders.org) are imploring us to be better citizens. Some brands are responding to this by trying to make the smile last a little longer and arguably moving further in the direction of real human happiness. Innocent’s ‘Big Knit’ making winters warmer for old people, This Water turning your purchase of a small bottle into providing enough clean drinking water for a month to someone in Malawi. Arla Foods bringing kids closer to nature.co.uk. These brands are improving other people’s lives whilst satisfying the higher self-esteem / self-actualisation needs of their own consumers. Faced with a choice of buying the good looking brand or the good looking brand that does something good as well, many people are opting for the latter. The happiness is felt by receiver and giver. Brand owner, consumer and trade outlet all benefit. Ask Innocent - their sales are up 16%.

What this demonstrates is that we don’t have to divorce our individual citizenship from our role in adding value through commercial activity. Draw yourself a Venn diagram of two circles. Put ‘Please my boss’ in the first circle and write ‘Be a good citizen’ in the second. Then sit back and ask yourself what opportunities might sit in the intersection. There’s something in that space for every brand. And the space gets bigger as the state retrenches and we move towards the Big Society.

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