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Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Happynomics: What makes people happy?

As anyone who knows me will tell you, this is absolutely my favourite topic, so I’ve read a lot of stuff that relates to it. And I have to say, much of it’s bollocks and doesn’t really help. So I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter if you are a tea shop in Harrogate or a large financial institution – happiness can be achieved simply by giving great service.

Happiness is mainly an attitude of gratitude and acceptance. (Think dog). It’s definitely not about money. All the research says, once you’ve reached a salary of £35,000, most people won’t become any happier with more money. (Bollocks!) And just in case you really want to know…happy people are open to change and have a positive outlook on life. They engage in purposeful activities that test their abilities, and develop relationships of respect and closeness. (I read that in a book somewhere).

According to Juliet Schor, Professor of sociology at Boston College, there are huge opportunities in helping people achieve higher levels of happiness. (Look at the growth rate of mentors, life coaches and psychologists in the UK). But most current products and services promise happiness and only deliver short-term satisfaction. Successful brands understand the ‘happiness trend’. They know they can’t sell happiness because true happiness is something people create for themselves. Smart brands choose to be facilitators so people can create their own happiness.

And savvy consumers know the difference between brands that want to sell happiness and brands that want to facilitate happiness. And they will endorse those brands that help them find and create happiness in themselves. As the majority of blogs will show, most are focused on bad customer service experience.

So who is getting it right? Which brands are helping people create happiness, well the obvious one’s are Apple and Innocent, they have a positive outlook and are looking to make the world a better place. But even brands that have got it wrong can start to put things right. Remember Dell Hell? Jeff Jarvis used the BuzzMachine to slam Dell for his horrific customer experience buying a laptop four years ago. This series of posts epitomized growing dissent against the company, and served as a channel to punish the Texas computer maker for bad products and customer service experiences. By listening to their customers and responding to what made them unhappy they have begun to turn it around and now have an incredibly loyal community across the web. At the start of this 49% of blog posts were negative. Today, overall tonality is only 22% negative.

So next time the client provides a brief, try asking this simple question: How is this product or service going to make the audience happy? A damn good service always works for me.

Kirsty Maxey
Managing Director

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