It’s not a particularly novel concept: When you’re healthy, you’re generally happier than when you’re ill. And when you’re happy, you’re less likely to be stressed—and therefore less likely to end up with a variety of ailments. There’s plenty of scientific research to support this. A new report from advertising agency JWT takes this a step further, exploring how deep this health/happiness connection goes—and how brands can capitalize on it.
The trend report, Happiness and Health: Hand in Hand, surveyed 744 Americans and 503 Britons over the age of 18, as well as four experts and influencers in consumer behavior, psychology, psychiatry, and sociology. Most of the survey results aren’t surprising—90% of respondents believe happiness can have a positive impact on health and 84% believe that being happy is an important part of being healthy.
But happiness is ranked as being more important in remaining healthy than taking medication, following a diet plan, being in a loving relationship, and maintaining work-life balance (of course, it could be argued that many of these things fall under the larger umbrella of happiness).
"You’ve heard about runners high, the exercise high. We’re increasingly looking at health and wellness in a more holistic way," says Ann Mack, director of trendspotting at JWT. "People are thinking of happiness in a more prescriptive way."
This emphasis on happiness is a huge opportunity for brands, according to Mack. Consider: 46% of respondents and 62% of Millennial respondents said they believe "brands can have a positive impact on their own happiness."
The report explains:
Consumers are starting to believe that “less is more,” becoming more selective and considered with their purchases and seeking to spend more on things that add meaning to their lives (memorable experiences, for instance). Brands should work to help bring about happiness and health rather than just speaking to it in messaging, demonstrating how their products and services can add meaning to people’s lives or enable fulfilling experiences. These can be positioned as helping to bring about not only individual happiness but greater social well-being.
Mack cites a handful of brands that are doing this well. In India, Kellogg’s All-Bran’s “Happy Inside. Happy Outside" campaign (created by JWT) targets women in their mid 30s and 40s that are prone to digestive problems because of stress, bad eating habits, inadequate lifestyles, and other issues. Says Mack: "All-Bran positions itself as a way to feel better on the inside and to achieve happiness on the outside."
In the U.S., Campbell’s Soup’s Road to Happiness campaign touts the amazingness of soup and how it can "fill you with vegetable nutrition, farm-grown ingredients, energy, and can help you keep a healthy weight." As Mack explains, the campaign "shows consumers turning to Campbell’s Soup to get on the road to happiness."
You might think that this is somehow exploitative, taking advantage of a post-recession desire to see brands as more than the products that they sell. But as Jonah Sachs explains in a series of excerpts from his recent book Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell—and Live—the Best Stories Will Rule the Future, rejecting traditional advertising tactics that take advantage of negative human emotions is a good thing. As Sachs writes, "reorienting our myths away from the adolescent, depressed consumer mind-set and toward the empowered citizen worldview is a powerful first step in reshaping our society for the better."