Harnessing Authentic Joy to Build a Brand Worth Sharing


In 2009, Coca-Cola launched its “Open Happiness” campaign. For nearly eight years, customers everywhere were familiar with the phrase, “A Coke and a smile.” But the soft drink giant abandoned the “happiness” angle in 2016, citing that happiness, as a concept, had become overused.

“Everything is about happiness,” said the company’s global vice-president of creative, connections and digital, Rodolfo Echeverria. “Happiness is an over-utilized word in current, contemporary culture.”

In some ways, Echeverria is correct. People are quick to judge, and inauthentic joy has become somewhat of a trope in the marketing world that should be avoided. However, other examples demonstrate the world is still intent on selling—and buying—joy. Between the quick popularity of Pharrell’s “Happy”, the iconic McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign, and so many other examples around us, it’s clear that you’re not going to want to abandon the idea of the “joy campaign” just yet.

In today’s proliferation of negative digital noise, building a connection to joy could be exactly what differentiates your brand. However, an empty promise of simple happiness isn’t enough to form sustained loyalty with the modern consumer, nor is it enough to create an engaging campaign that consumers will share.

As marketers of technology products and solutions, we often look to consumer marketing trends when building our campaigns. After all, we are marketing our tech brands to people. Ultimately, someone is making a purchase decision, and that person has wants, needs and desires that need to be addressed. But as we’ve seen, it’s not enough to script joy into our strategy and expect results.

In order to reach today’s technology customer, you can look to the consumer world to refocus your marketing efforts on authentic, experiential immersion that clearly demonstrates your product’s potential for delivering joy. When joy is adequately captured and authentically displayed, modern customers embrace brands. In turn, they become brand advocates, driving the momentum of your campaigns even further through social sharing.

Appealing to a New Type of Consumer


Guinness – Basketball: Why we love it – Though staged, this ad creates an authentic appreciation for the characters, and appeals to the social responsibility and shared experience factors that are highly valued by modern consumers. The ending is uplifting and inspirational. Considering this ad’s nearly-9-million views, it’s safe to say that they’ve found a winning message.

The consumer landscape has shifted drastically since the turn of the century. Year over year, technology disrupts how people work, live, play and shop. While older generations still adhere to traditional models in advertising metrics, those who have adopted technology have changed their habits considerably. And younger consumers, who have been raised in a rapidly changing environment, have significantly different priorities, loyalties and spending habits than their preceding generations.

The Millennial generation is the largest to ever enter the consumer market, and they play by an entirely new set of rules. They’ve been raised in a world where media dominates their lives. For the Millennial generation, seeing is not believing. For Millennials, experience is everything.

According to a Goldman Sachs study, the Millennial generation is driven to purchase not by brand, but by how that brand has been experienced by their peers. 36% of Millennials say that a good social media reputation is a primary factor in their purchase decisions. Additionally, 90% of Millennials state that they prefer to research and purchase online1.

In order to market toward a generation that prefers to find their choices through an organic network of shared experiences, we must step beyond traditional models and find a way to build authentic connections with these very discerning consumers.

Capturing Authentic Joy

CocaCola chose to abandon “happiness as a promise” in an effort to connect on a more authentic, humble level with their younger audiences. While their new “Taste the Feeling” campaign offers less of an emotional guarantee, it resonates with the generation that reaches for social purpose and experience over the previous generations’ desire for the promise of more.

While some brands are shying away from guaranteed emotional impact, joy can still become a powerful driver–as long as the joy is authentic.

The idea of capturing authentic joy is somewhat untapped in marketing. Real-life stories, deeply emotional vignettes and carefully captured experiences that feel tangible help the consumer connect to the advertisements on a personal level. Authentic joy invites the consumer to become a part of the experience.

Authentic Joy is Contagious


P&G – Thank You Mom: Why we love it – This ad is a vignette of life moments that deeply connect the audience to the action. Parents in particular share in the feelings of encouragement, hope, pride and immense joy that the ad inspires. It’s not surprising that this ad has been shared millions of times and is captioned in multiple languages.

For every baby, one of the very first displays of social interaction is the smile–a gesture that is always returned in kind by surrounding adults. In a study conducted by scientists in Sweden, it was shown that most people cannot frown if others around them are smiling; the unconscious mind takes control and joy spreads.

Knowing how contagious joy can be, it’s no surprise that happiness leads to sharing. In a 2013 study by Fractl, it was noted that, “Emotions layered with and related to happiness make up the majority of this list of the top drivers of viral content.”

The Social Effect

A whopping 90% of Millennials state that they use social media, with most users actively using five different social platforms (Infusionsoft, 2016). Social media users want to share experiences. However, a Rutgers research study classifies 80% of Twitter users as “meformers” – users share experiences only if they feel a personal connection to the event, image or message.

In order to bridge the gap and create a brand worth sharing, the social media generations need to feel engaged in the action. By using authentic moments of joy, consumers will latch onto the message, become part of the story, and share that experience with others.


Cosmopolitan – People Seeing Color for the First Time: Why we love it – This video captures authentic awe and immense joy. Imaging the power of showing your product’s consumers living life through the lens of your brand. Find that awe-filled moment, capture it, and then share it with the world.

In order to harness joy to create a brand that social users—particularly millennials—will share, marketers need to reach beyond surface-level emotional promises. Capture truly joyful moments and use them to invite consumers to become part of your story. Show them how your brand relates directly to their own, personal joy, and they will ultimately share your message with their world.