Happy is the tagline word du jour. Why so late to the party?

A few years ago, Best Buy endorsed the following edict in its tagline: Buyer Be Happy. More recently, Coca-Cola has encouraged us to Open Happiness. Febreze wants us to Breathe Happy. Hershey’s suggests that we Welcome Happy, and, alternately, that we say Hello Happy. Hello Hershey’s. And Lay’s explains to us that Happiness is Simple. Some online service called Live Happy promises Happiness delivered right to you!

It doesn’t surprise me that the advertising world has glommed onto that word. What surprises me is how long it has taken to get to this point. After all, the word happy has a long and storied tradition in song titles, (Happy by The Rolling Stones, Happy by Pharrell Williams, Happy by C2C—and that’s just titles consisting entirely of just that word); book titles, (10% Happier, The Art of Happiness, Authentic Happiness, The Happiness Advantage, The Happiness Project, etc); movie titles (I found 22 such titles in Wikipedia); surprisingly few band names, (Happy Mondays, Happy Go Lucky, The Happy Goodman Family, Happy Flowers, Happy Rhodes); lots of consumer products and many other forms of popular culture. But, if memory serves, (and it seldom does these days), the occurrence of happy in taglines, at least with such frequency, is a relatively recent development.

Taglines, according to most people, should allude to a key benefit of the product or service. Happiness could be considered the ultimate benefit.

There was a time when marketing research people would invoke Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, when they discussed the merits of connecting their product or service to this benefit or that. Where did the benefit land on Maslow’ hierarchy? Happiness was way up there at the top of the pyramid, the state of mind of the self-actualized person.

You might think that, at least for Maslow fans, they’d want to connect every brand to that highest of benefits, happiness. But for some reason, that didn’t happen. Instead, brands were attached to lower (though not necessarily lesser) needs like the need for safety, the need to be loved, respected, and other needs within Maslow’s hierarchy.

The notion of happiness is not one I have the time or ability to analyze in depth. If only the search for happiness ended at the soft drink or chip or candy bar I choose. Alas, as Chairman Jimmy reminds us, it’s more complicated than that. The only thing I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out is that, in AdWorld, happiness is usually just synonymous with, or code for, pleasure. If that’s true, it means Wrigley was way ahead of its time with that Doublemint Gum jingle.

In any case, the reason I bring this all up is to provide a public service for the many, many brands who are inclined to jump on the latest adfad. Happy seems to be the tagline word du jour, so you’ll want to get your people on it, coming up with some slight variation on the happy taglines that are popping up all over.


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