I was asked recently — 'What brands make you happy?'
Almost every day my colleagues and I are asked to help organisations find their deeper purpose, unravel their values and promote a part of life they can slot into to make the most profitable contribution possible to their audiences lives.
That’s ace. That’s competitive commercial reality.
There is no doubt that those brands that do find positions to occupy in life, that genuinely benefit people, make significant contributions to how societies behave, and of course, make significant profits in the process. (Apple & Google being obvious examples of this.)
Equally — in post CV19 times, a purpose is increasingly useful to bind an organisation together, make them shoot for something bigger than the next PPT presentation. But providing a focus for effort is differerent to pretending to solve angst and misery.
Yet if brands are the collective reputations of products, services and organisations, surely the question of ‘what brands make your life better’ is a recipe for making life worse.
While working for a larger collective purpose is undoubtably more fulfiulling than more menial endeavours. Should people look to products & services to fill emotive voids, expand personal horizons, satisfy deeper desires and demands… really? You need a brand for that?
Seeking happiness is an enduring theme in human history — but knowing where to look and where to avoid seems key to the search.
Once, in Amsterdam, a person I was travelling with (who we will call ‘chap’ here), went to a ‘coffee shop’ and asked the vendor for some Marijuana.
The guy behind the counter asked, ‘What kind?’
The chap ventured, ‘Something that will make me laugh, something that will make me happy?’
Without missing a beat the shop owner smiled back,
‘My friend, drugs won’t make you happy’.
Long term, I suspect brands are the same.
They serve a purpose, but don’t often provide purpose.
And even those brands with a seemingly higher purpose, generally have an agenda.
Brands may raise a smile, but don’t deliver lasting happiness.
Commercial advantage consists of many aspects, including intelligent application of brand thinking.
True happiness lies in surprisingly simple things, not complex branded structures.
When on Desert Island Discs, singer, Tom Jones — a man who has been the highest paid, most celebrated, knicker-throwing magnet on the planet — was given his choice of a luxury item to help make him feel happier in splendid island isolation.
Mr Jones has had his pick of the planets pleasures, both personal and professional.
His choice of luxury item?
A bucket and spade.
Perhaps that's a more honest direction of travel... look to brands in products and services to provide a respite from daily tasks... brand as entertainment seems more useful and genuine than brands that set out to provide lasting happiness...