“A little piece of happy” – Trident tries to get in on the joy wave

By Ingrid Fetell Lee


There’s a joy wave afoot, and every marketer from here to Timbuktu is trying to get in on the action. We get it. We’re in the midst of the Great Recession, people are gloomy, and if you’re going to flog more sportscars or soda or chiclets right now pretty much the only way to do it is to sweep us off our feet in a haze of good cheer. But all cheery marketing campaigns are not created equal.

“A little piece of happy” should be joyful. After all, that’s one way to define what joy is: little pieces of happiness. But this campaign isn’t joyful. Some of the items are entertaining, like the happy news feed and the Pandora playlist. Others are just dumb, like the pic of the chihuahua wearing goggles or the image of the two starfish holding hands (the caption reads “star crossed lovers” — har har). But my real problem with it is that it just seems like a novelty, a gimmick — all talk, no real emotion. Just because it’s timed to the recession with a peppy vibe doesn’t make it a winner. Would you visit this site more than once or twice? Would you post it on your facebook page or send it to half your address book? Do you now suddenly feel a rush of delight every time you chew a piece of the same old Trident?

I think this campaign is joywashing — the shameless use of happiness or joy to convince us to buy more stuff. Real joy is deep, repeatable, and contagious. And unless there’s something special in the formula, it doesn’t come from a stick of gum.

July 2nd, 2009


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    Discussion (2 Comments)

  1. Nicolas on July 2, 2009

    Interesting post Ingrid. Not sure I agree though.

    I like the term “joy-washing” and it’s definitely appropriate for the trend. But I think what’s making Trident’s campaign stand out in my mind is the emphasis they took on “happy” over “happiness” or more to your point “joy.” They’re not promising the world, like a Coke or a Honda or even a Lays (potatoes raining from the sky? really?). It is just about little things that make you smile: for some people it’s a sweet commercial about a little girl, but for others it’s the dumb chihuahua in goggles (worked for me!)

    I’ve been a Trident chewer since I was a kid (addicted to Peppermint) and do see the product in these ads. Granted, I don’t feel like I’m chewing goats or starfish, but popping in a piece does put me at ease a little bit, maybe because it’s the “same old” gum I’ve had all my life– it’s my little piece of happy.

    Definitely a trend to be wary of, but in this case, I feel like Trident “undersold” the idea of happiness just enough for what the brand really is– gum. That’s just my take though.

  2. Ingrid on July 6, 2009

    Nicolas. Thanks for your comment and your thoughts. I see your point and think there’s some value to a brand campaign that renews warm feelings for a brand you already have an attachment to. For you, as a Trident chewer, these mini-messages of “happy” are like a little infusion of good vibes into your already-positive relationship with the brand.

    But if someone doesn’t already have a relationship with the brand, I wonder whether merely the power of suggestion in these ads will give the existing product the necessary halo of positive emotion. Leaving aside the question of whether this particular case is “joywashing” or not, a matter on which I think there can be legitimately differing viewpoints, I would still say that the Trident campaign represents a missed opportunity. Emotion is deeply connected to our sensory experience of the world, and if you have a product like gum which does create a deeply multi-sensory experience, I think it’s a mistake not to use that sensory experience in some way — through form, color, flavor, texture, scent, packaging, etc. — to reinforce the communications message.


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