After an incredibly hard year there is finally some light on the horizon: the accelerating rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations has people excitedly planning to finally get out of the house, and back into the world. From planning trips to (re)exploring their home cities, the spring and summer of 2021 will bring a return to something far more normal, and desperately longed for by so many, for so long: people are finally looking forward to a little joy in their lives.
For brands, there is genuine excitement to be a part of this renaissance: who wouldn’t want to engage their consumers as they step back into their world with a smile on their face? But there is also hesitation: when exactly will things go back to normal already?
Well, we don’t have an exact date for you (sorry about that). But we sincerely believe that fortune favors the brave: one or a limited few brands are facing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to boldly step out into the market ahead of their nervous competitors, crafting safe, considered, joyful experiences, pop-ups, and activations for consumers as they venture out for the first time in over a year, eager to participate.
So let’s take a quick look at why we believe right now is the most unique opportunity in marketing for a century: the chance to powerfully engage your audience as they seek out joy.
Joy marketing is when brands set out to elicit one key emotion above all others in their audiences: joy. This may seem pretty self-explanatory, but there’s fascinating scientific evidence for why joy is such powerful emotion. First of all, ‘joy triggers’ tend to be consistent across demographics and even psychographics: old, young, left brain or right brain, introverted or extroverted, we all find joy in many of the same things. Secondly, joy is contagious: it literally makes people more attractive to strangers, and people will dwell longer in retail spaces that inspire joy than stores that don’t. And finally, 93% of Americans want to find more ways to experience joy every day, yet only 40% think they have enough joy in their lives (and this is from research done pre-COVID: we’d bet that last statistic has plummeted).
When Joy Marketing first started trending 5-10 years back, a lot of brands went all in, fuelled by psychologist-led research. Johnnie Walker, BMW, Reddi-Wip, Cadbury, Citibank, Aperol: the list goes on and on, across all manner of industry verticals. And truthfully, it’s nothing new: 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most famous example of ‘joy marketing’, Don Draper’s Bill Backer’s famous ad “I want to buy the world a Coke”, one of the most successful and iconic campaigns of all time.
So, why is joy marketing so important to think about now? Simply put, because the world has never needed joy more, but they’ve never needed screen content less. Many of the brands mentioned earlier created content that connected their brand to an element of joy, but in this time of utter screen fatigue, the last thing your brand should be making is more screen content. Instead, take a leaf out of Marie Kondo’s book: don’t just allude to joy through a screen, spark actual joy for your consumers out in the world. Aim to create experiences, activations, and pop-ups that tap into the upcoming zeitgeist of positivity and optimism - experiences that add to the collective joy of getting out of the house.
This means planning for then, now, which brings us to our next section: why being first will matter most.
To be early into market, you’ll need to have your strategy and creativity locked in: spring could mean activating as soon as late April or May. Effective and powerful creative executions take time, refinement and rounds of internal buy in: get this process started now so your brand is ready to pull the trigger and get out into the world ahead of your competitors.
Make no mistake: the rush is real. Even now, in March, we are seeing venues and permits drying up for Q4, and we expect to see this trend move into Q3, and then Q2. The best experience in the world is useless if you can’t find anywhere to put it, so now is the time to have your production partners on the phone to permit offices and venues to to hold dates and pay deposits...which should be transferable in case something needs to change last minute.
The vaccine rollout is largely being run at a state level, which means certain markets will ‘open up’ faster than others. While we understand the importance of target markets, we’d still recommend a degree of flexibility: consider a number of markets across the country (or at least in different states) in order to move quickly as opportunities present themselves. If California is open and Florida is lagging, could you target LA instead of Miami?
Finally, think about the reach you could get via a roadshow or mobile pop-up. Spring and summer are perfect road trip months: why not take your experience to the Northeast, the south, or down the west coast, hitting multiple locations and engaging multiple audiences?
We said it before, and we’ll say it again: this is a once-in-a-century opportunity for brands to engage their audiences as they step back into the world, filled with optimism and eager to seek out experiences. And for those brave enough to get ahead of the wave, joyful experiences, activations, and pop-ups represent a wonderful way to meaningfully participate in what will likely be one of the most positive periods in history: the summer we all got out of the house.