Why brands should use the formula for happiness

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Nils Leonard: Grey London's executive director
Nils Leonard: Grey London's executive director

Nils Leonard, Grey London's executive director, looks at why brands should be using the formula for happiness.

Sometimes in life you find yourself wondering why. Why Mrs Brown’s Boys was made into a film, why 300 years after the Industrial Revolution most of us are still commuting to a concrete box in the city to work nine to five every day, and why, at a time when there’s unparalled unrest in the Middle East and Russia, it is a contretemps over a melted baked Alaska on a reality show about cakes that is causing a Twitterstorm.

Another one to ponder is why we’re not all writhing around in a permanent state of bliss now that we’ve found the formula for happiness.

That one at least we can answer. As we all know, there is nothing permanent about happiness and that is the joy of it.

Earlier this month, scientists from University College London developed a mathematical equation that can predict momentary delight – aka happiness.

They studied how happiness levels rise and fall when we win or lose a reward during a task or game and showed that our happiness tends to be greater, not when things are gliding along nicely, but in the moment when they’re going better than expected.

Therefore happiness comes about by exceeding expectations.

This is a formula brands should be paying very close attention to. In advertising, as in life, it is not just rewards that influence happiness but our expectations in the moment. Providing those little moments of happiness that exceed expectations is how we build valuable consumer relationships.

For brands to forge relationships with people they must strive to engage meaningfully with them in the right moment and provide an experience or something of value to be remembered for.

The digital and technological revolution has made that ambition more achievable than ever. Defying expectations and bringing real happiness is also easier than you’d think.

Despite our best efforts, people still have low and often no expectations of what brands can offer them outside of the products they sell to them.

That might sound depressing, but the upside is that advertisers that give something useful back can only ever exceed consumer expectations.

"Advertising is based on one thing: happiness", as the famous line from Mad Men goes.

The advertising industry has also grown up over the years – from telling people what they want in the 1960s to finally getting around to listening to what people want today.

Science and art are telling us that we are in a better position than ever to actually make people happy and we need to take advantage of that.

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