Is happiness for sale?

 

We’re surrounded in words: food packaging, billboard ads, tweets, newspaper articles, targeted Facebook ads, and text messages. Ads target us with increasingly sophisticated technologies. Admittedly, I contribute to the phonetic flurry of marketing messages, while doing my best to create relevant content that’s worthy of eyeball time. In observing and critiquing other marketing material, I notice patterns of catch phrases, like:

Happiness

Advertisers seem to lure consumers on an Easter-egg-like treasure hunt for happiness, persuasive pathos at its best. After all, is there anything we want more than to be happy? While a brilliant marketing tactic, I’ve spent considerable time thinking about whether I agree with deploying such a power-packed word in the name of sales.

Above you see a sign from a local women’s gym. Every time I pass by, my eyes shoot straight to that top phrase: “Happiness is a gorgeous figure.” Really? Is that all it boils down to?

We’ve all seen Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness” tagline, which has been selling sugar water since 2009. On Coke’s  happiness site, they declare: “The quest for true happiness is not really a quest at all, but a decision and a choice. So don’t wait another moment. Open an ice cold Coca-Cola and choose happiness!” Interesting.

I’m quite a Disney fan, and I’m sure you’re aware they’ve declared their land “The Happiest Place on Earth.While it’s a joy for my family, I know others who do all in their power to avoid it.

The most far-fetched happiness ad I saw on my way to work. It’s from CLEAR, and apparently they’ve solved the happiness equation too: “Happiness can be found with a mobile internet provider.” 

And let’s not forget Happy Meals, which can change a child’s life for $2.99. At least they’ll be cheery while chomping those chicken nuggets and playing with the soon-to-be-broken toy, right? Just wait until the next day, when they throw a fit for more “happiness.”

Does happiness really boil down to the Mad Men advertisers’ definition on this Youtube clip: “What is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.”

Advertisers know the “pursuit of happiness” is near and dear to Americans, branded into the U.S. Declaration of Independence as one of the “inalienable rights” with which all human beings are endowed by their Creator.  But do they really expect us to believe happiness is found in a gorgeous figure or downing a bottle of Coke? (And don’t those two contradict?!) Do you agree?

While I don’t have all the answers to the marketing mix, I don’t believe true, enduring happiness can be bought.  Nor does it have a price tag. True happiness, for me, is found in meaningful, loving relationships. It’s a product of being true to myself and my values. It’s found in enjoying nature, progressing and learning, and engaging the creative process.

I’d love your thoughts on the topic: Can happiness really be found in a Coke, as the ad says? What’s your philosophy on happiness in our world of consumerism? Do you have other examples of “happiness placement” in ads? Let’s hear it.

 


2 Comments


  1. I agree with you about true happiness being found in relationships. With that said, it’s often the little things that build the good memories in relationships — like sharing a favorite Dr Pepper flavor, seeing a movie together, etc. I think you could still have a lot of meaningful parts of a good relationship without money, for sure, but those things can definitely add to the experience. I guess it’s just a matter of how extreme you get about it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Katie. I agree that the little things make memories sweeter, and often those do come in the form of packaged goods. You’re right that something purchased contributes to happy times. For sure! The purpose of this post is to point out a word commonly used by marketers, and question their use of it. And if you look at those global brands – this tactic works wonders! (Except CLEAR – I don’t know much about their brand awareness.) I welcome your thoughts, and appreciate you reading!

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