Ernie Ross is the head of branding and innovation agency Ross | ReThink and the creator of the Intangience™ methodology.
The moment I heard of “happytalism,” an economic system and socio-political philosophy that places happiness and well-being at the center of economic development, it instantly resonated with me.
Nothing brings greater authentic happiness than a life of meaning through contribution to others. That you can sincerely achieve this while creating wealth is perhaps what living a life of abundance is really all about.
A purposeful life and creating wealth are not mutually exclusive strategies. As consumers grow more socially conscious and expect the brands they buy to do the same, business leaders are waking up to the reality that it isn’t just wise to incorporate principles of happytalism into their brands and business ideals, but it is necessary as well.
People Will Pay For Purpose
There is the notion that profits and purpose cannot coexist, but when brands develop business models that genuinely contribute to a greater purpose, meaningful connections are made with customers and greater profitability is secured as a consequence of this.
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Research has shown that people will pay more and go further to acquire a brand they believe is serving a greater purpose. The intangible values and the meaning they give to brands create the brand’s worth. The days of rank profiteering at the expense of consumers are short lived, and more brands than ever are searching for ways to make contribution a central part of why they exist and why people should choose them.
This was recently powerfully demonstrated to me in a supermarket. My daughter placed a chocolate bar in the shopping cart. Resisting the temptation to invest in yet more sugar-based items than we already had at home, I told her chocolate wasn’t something we needed.
I reached to put the chocolate back on the shelf, and I noticed that there was surprisingly no brand name or logo on the packet. Even more remarkable was what I read on the chocolate bar packaging.
“I wrestled the Prime Minister’s bodyguards.” – Bob, 90
“I kissed a rock star.” – Mae, 83
Compelled to read what this was all about, I turned the chocolate bar over where the logo was clearly evident – Cadbury. The label spoke about the loneliness of the elderly and the great stories of their lives that could be told. For each bar of Cadbury chocolate purchased, a monetary donation was being made to an organization dedicated to supporting companionship for the elderly. The captions seen on the Cadbury bars were actual accounts from the life stories of these elderly people.
I placed the chocolate bar back in the shopping cart and later ate it without guilt, reflecting as I did on the stories and the cause Cadbury had chosen to support.
An interesting footnote to this story is that while this wasn’t meant to be a sales generative campaign but a corporate goodwill initiative, nevertheless,
Cadbury Dairy Milk sales went up 53% after the Donate Your Words campaign was launched. That measurable result is yet another of countless examples that demonstrate how purpose-driven branding and profitability can work in tandem.
France Legislates Corporate Purpose
In 2019, France passed PACTE legislation, which requires every company to have a corporate purpose and “take into consideration the social and environmental issues arising from its activity.” The changes affect millions of legal entities from the smallest partnership to the largest public corporation.
As admirable as this legislation is, I doubt it can be emulated in many other parts of the world. The implementation of such collective responsibility is better achieved by persuading businesses it is in their best interests to pursue integrating corporate responsibility strategies into their business models and brand development.
Six Steps To Working Happytalism Into Your Business
The good news is, you don’t have to overhaul your entire business model to incorporate the principles of happytalism into your business. By building on what already exists in your firm, you can discover the intangible values that inspire customers to choose your brand and then frame your happytalism efforts around those values.
1. Identify the intangible values your brand represents in the lives of others. Using other companies as examples, Nike represents self-determination (“Just Do It”) and Always represents female empowerment (#LikeAGirl). Find what your company stands for and make it central to your company’s reason for being.
2. Create an authentic voice of purpose. This isn’t a sales gimmick or promotional scheme. Develop a genuine brand expression of a value that is revealed in everything you do and that resonates with customers with whom you wish to establish an emotional connection.
3. Search for innovative ways to express and manifest your brand purpose. The best connections are made when you deliver your purpose to customers in ways they hadn’t expected.
4. Ensure your business purpose harmonizes with your values. When your personal values coincide with those of your business, an authentic relationship with your customers emerges, and you manifest your best self through meaningful work.
5. Meet your customer’s greatest needs even when it diminishes your profit margins. Like any relationship, the unconditionality of such commitment will pay huge dividends.
6. Be truly authentic. When your brand approaches its purpose with true authenticity, it pays off, like it did for Cadbury. Cadbury traded brand prominence for brand purpose by giving the words of the elderly top billing on its labels, instead of its logo, and it reaped the financial rewards. It was that sincerity of purpose that created an emotional connection and created results.
The Sweet Consequences Of Contribution
It’s reassuring to know that greater happiness for ourselves is a direct consequence of contributing to others. Living a happier life defined by meaning – while your brand does better than ever – is the most powerful consequence of happytalism.
Today, think of what your company truly means to people and how you can elevate that meaning in everything you do. Once uncovered, you, too, can enjoy the benefits of creating well-being and generating wealth because of it. That is happytalism in practice.
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Author: Ernest Ross, Forbes Councils Member