Joywashing on NHPR’s Word of Mouth

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

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Today I was interviewed about “joywashing” by Virginia Prescott live on New Hampshire Public Radio‘s Word of Mouth, a show about trends and culture. The interview was great fun — I love talking about joy in its many forms, and especially its rise in popular culture.

You can hear the segment online here after 3pm today. And here are links to the ads from French’s, VW, Clorox, Trident, and BMW discussed.

Previous joywashing posts on this blog include one on Clorox and one on Trident, in case anyone’s looking for a more in-depth discussion of the phenomenon.

One point I didn’t have time to make in the interview that I want to add. . . Unlike greenwashing, joywashing doesn’t present a dangerous threat. I meant what I said when I indicated that an abundance of joy in marketing probably is a good thing, and certainly won’t hurt anyone. But that doesn’t mean it’s right for every brand. Not all products should be marketed as joyful products. And this glut of good vibes will definitely make it harder for any one brand to stand out.

Marketers run a very real danger of poisoning the well by jumping on the joy-wagon without backing up their advertising claims with product design or service gestures. Like any major cultural shift, the rising tide of optimism has the potential to be an opportunity or a threat. For those marketers that realize people are looking not just for sugar-coated messages but for uplifting products and services and experiences throughout their lives, the joy wave presents a good opportunity to leave a deep and powerful impression on their customers. Or it could be a fast-track to being perceived as inauthentic. It’s all in what you make of it.

Thank you to NHPR and Word of Mouth for inviting me on to share these thoughts with their listeners. Have a joyful afternoon!

July 14th, 2009

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