487 Words on Happiness

487 Words on Happiness

Happiness is big business. And I’m not talking about those bumper stickers that say, “Happiness is my poodle.” I’m talking about the increasing importance we, as humans, are placing on happiness and the pursuit thereof – thank you very much, Thomas Jefferson.

It’s everywhere in the marketing world. Nesquik promises that you can drink chocolatey-good happiness and Dunkin’ Donuts offers “the happiest sandwich on Earth.”  Coke’s high profile “Open Happiness” campaign joins other big brands like BMW, Lay’s, and Yahoo! with promises to deliver the happiness elixir to cure your doldrums.

But according to psychologists, happiness can be boiled down to an approximate equation: happiness = 50% genetics + 10-20% life circumstances; the remainder is influenced by how people think and act. Therefore, chocolate milk may only account for 20% of your overall happiness.

Many people are surprised to learn that life circumstances impact such a small portion of happiness. Aren’t rich people happier than poor people? Healthy people happier than disabled people? Research says no. Happiness peaks at about $60k in income – everything after that is gravy. Disabled people are just as likely to have positive attitudes or bouts of depression than the general public.

Happy people, according to research, are more likely to exercise creative problem solving, think abstractly, and evaluate people and things more favorably. Happy people tend to choose more risky options, more pro-social ideas, make healthier choices, and consider more options.

As sustainability marketers, isn’t this exactly what we want? So maybe we’d better get a little smarter about happiness in order to reach our goals.

Research from the Journal of Consumer Research, “How Happiness Affects Choice” examined some of the pressing questions about happiness (a fairly new area of scientific exploration). Among the study’s key findings is that there are really two distinct kinds of happiness: one that’s usually expressed as anticipation or excitement, and one that’s associated with feeling calm and peaceful.

Interestingly, Americans and young adults are more likely to define happiness as the excitable version, while Asians and older adults gravitated toward the calmer version. Those with a tendency to focus on the future preferred excited happiness, while those focused on the now felt more comfortable with the calmer state.

The study concludes that the definition of happiness changes across the arc of your life, and from moment to moment. But most importantly, a person’s state of happiness influences their choices.

As marketers, we need to remember that happiness isn’t a static mood, and to communicate with our audiences about the type of happiness that’s most meaningful to them. Is your happy excitable? Then your logo should be in bright colors. Is your happy calming? Try muted tones. Messaging should promise your consumers’ brand of happy.

So, as they say in Iceland, be well and go happy, friends.

About the Author

Karen Barnes

Karen is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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