Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: Happiness Is an Elastic Concept and Merely Associating a Brand with It Is Not Enough to Woo Consumers

Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: Happiness Is an Elastic Concept and Merely Associating a Brand with It Is Not Enough to Woo Consumers

Article excerpt

Happiness is an elastic concept and merely associating a brand with it is not enough to woo consumers, according to research.

Suppose you learned today that your brand had achieved a new high on some significant measure: awareness, say, or market share. Would you be happy?

Sure you would. You'd have every reason to feel that dictionary-definition 'state of wellbeing and contentment'. For a while. Come the next quarterly review, though, if that number remains precisely the same, it will no longer put a smile on your face.

That's the trouble with happiness: it is a moving target. Perhaps that's why the founding fathers of the US went no further than enshrining, as a universal right, its mere pursuit; they knew better than to make any rash pronouncements regarding its lasting possession.

David Cameron appears less wise in his intention to track the UK's reported overall happiness. What is to be gained? Even if a government could contrive to achieve maximum happiness for most people, it would not last beyond a single survey. There is no socio-economic opiate powerful enough to sustain the high.

Brand owners, of course, have long understood the elasticity of happiness, and have used continuous product improvement to stimulate consumers' innate preparedness to crave more.

Once, people were content with single-blade razors, basic cars and 501-line TVs. It didn't last. Today's six-blade razors look like miniature spaceships, a regular family car is a 120-mph supercomputer and anyone swapping their HD smart screen for a 70s set would think they were watching EastEnders through a flannel. It takes more to make us happy.

Since product improvement is costly, and consumers fickle, many brands have sought to crystallise their contribution to our capricious sense of fulfilment in the most direct possible way. Coke says 'Open happiness'; Dunkin' Donuts invites us to down it with 'The happiest sandwich on Earth'. Clinique simply calls its lead fragrance 'Happy'.

Unfortunately for brands, new academic research suggests that this, too, will need to be improved. According to a soon-to-be published report in the Journal of Consumer Research, broad promises of happiness are too unfocused to influence consumer choice.

Building on prior academic research, the authors show that happiness is experienced in two ways: excitement on the one hand, peace and calm on the other. Predictably, youth tends to be more excitement focused, and older people more turned on by calm. …

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