The Happy Economy: The Power of Surprise & Delight For Stressed Out Times

We have all been there. The joy of a guilty pleasure after a stressful day or week. That sugary rush of a gooey brownie, that perfectly-mixed libation, the mindless yet addictive tv show custom-made for binge watching. This need for relaxation and fun is happening at a colossal societal level as we deal with the increasing pressures of modern living and the current political noise. And there you have it: a wide opening for those that deliver glee.

Surprising and delighting customers serves a more powerful strategic and creative role for brands now more than ever before. Consumers are stressed and marketing has not helped. Most brands have largely been focused on chasing consumers down a purchasing funnel with ads they don’t want to see, promotions that overwhelm them and customer service that is at best lackluster and at worst off-putting and disrespectful. And then we wonder why stores are closing.

We’ve seen a steady rise in the interest in all things happy to counterbalance all this gloom. We’re seen it in the resurgence of playful brands such as Lego, which are delivering much needed analog fun in a world of digital. We are also excitedly welcoming play and fun into all aspects of our lives. The Slack collaborative platform is about taking the tediousness out of the work day. And for the home we have interfaces like Alexa and Nest freeing us to do more fun stuff while new companions such as the cute Wonder Dash robot from Apple making family-life more fun and friendly. The popularity of Millennial Pink is the cherry on top of this happiness binging.

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New Opportunities

We see the happy economy yielding some big dividends in the next couple of years as increasing fears about digital security, the environment, and geopolitics make us want to escape into dreamland. Areas of growth will include: the new and timeless toy industries, interactive playful experiences, themed destinations, friendly robotics, entertainment-driven malls, mixed run/retail residential spaces. Through all of these categories, there will be a focus on both physically-engaging delivery and AI and VR-assisted personalized escapism.

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Purveying Fun

While the future will grant us new possibilities to wow, we must deliver glee immediately for it is a matter of survival. For a consumer that expects the worst and is border-line walking around with brand-blinders on, serving good ole fun can help make or break a brand. Here are some ways to do this:

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Smile at Your Customer

Deliver a better form of customer service to make your consumers happy. Rethink how you staff and train your sales agents and customer service staff. Take cues from Apple and Disney. Hire lifestyle experts that are engaging, genuinely interested in helping people out and can deliver a contagious feeling about your industry and brand. Deploy some high tech to accompany the high touch. Explore service personalization at scale with chat-bots, targeted marketing, customizable products and services, and more. Magic should be channel agnostic.

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Product Innovation & Playfulness

Think of ways to make your entire product experience more fun. Explore customization and playful personalization. Push the boundaries, whenever relevant, in terms of new experiences, fabrics and designs. Look into unexpected collaborations. Reframe the use of your product. Think outside your existing categories.Think of how Apple was able to task something as intimidating and scientific as the personal computer and turn it into a window for self expression and creativity.

Fun as Your Go-To-Market Plans & Media Strategies

In a world of ad-blocks and over-distribution think of your entire marketing strategy and channels as an amusement ride. Surprise vs. disrupt. Open up a fun collaborative conversation and experience with the consumer. Have them choose their own products, promotions, content and marketing experience. Challenge your media partners to deliver less intrusive media/messaging contexts and formats. Look into partnerships with like-minded brands in other, perhaps more fun categories. What can you do in travel, entertainment, etc? Explore the fun side of physical marketing as we return to cities. Turn your promotions into more special "have to go to" events and experiences. How can your brand break through the clutter? Think of entertainment possibilities: live billboards, relieve a day-to-day pressure for city dwellers (free coffee, free wifi, etc.).

Nurture and Amplify Loyalty

Your best customer will always be your strongest asset. Think every single moment about how your brand can make its best customers feel special for being so good to you. Look for ways of giving them access, extra perks, products, experiences. Listen to their feedback to inform all aspects of your initiatives.

In a day and age when consumers feel distrust and annoyance, a brand that tries to put a good old fashioned smile will win. So put your service hat on and get ready to deliver magic.