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Marketing to Happiness

A product should reflect the user's identity, says Dr. Bob Deutsch of Brain-Sells.

By Dr. Bob Deutsch, Brain-Sells

Published June 1, 2010
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Happiness is a hot topic these days. Scholars have recently noted some non-intuitive dynamics as to what makes people happy, and, of course, Americans are always in the pursuit of happiness.

Marketers rarely, if ever, talk about happiness directly, but in
designing digital offerings that promise an "experience," or when
focused on building customer relationships, the covert subtext of most advertising should be the creation of the feeling of happiness.

Must-Have vs. Want

A complication usually arises, though, when advertising creative meets the CMO's meat-grinder that tends to delimit brand into tomorrow's sales' numbers. Perhaps one way out of this dilemma is for marketers to note the difference—emotionally, experientially and cognitively—between consumers' must-ing and wanting.

When a person is on the prowl for a specific item they must have— say, a classic black dress, a box of tampons or their brand of after-shave, the consummation of a "must" produces the feeling of relief.

A very different emotional experience derives from something you want but meet up with unexpectedly.This buying situation gives rise to satisfaction.

Relief (minimizing loss) and satisfaction (maximizing gain) are
experienced differently and are, in fact, represented by different
neurological activity patterns.

If I like a product and buy it because its attributes meet my interests,
I can be relieved to have it. If I feel a product reflects my identity
and expands its latent expressions of self, a certain relationship
develops with that product. It is that relationship that makes me happy.

People feel happy not when a product or a store demonstrates an
understanding of the consumer as a purchasing process, but when it authentically displays it understands who the consumer is as a person.

Understanding of a person as an identity is different than explaining
them as a consumer. At best the former generates "liking" while the
latter establishes "attachment." I can like a transaction but I am
happiest in a relationship.

About the Author
Dr. Bob Deutsch is a cognitive anthropologist and founder of the consulting firm, Brain Sells, a strategic branding and communications consultancy based in Boston, MA. Email: dr.bob@brain-sells.com, Cell: 917-215-4800

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