We’re all currently living through WFH (Work From Home) and social distancing measures. On top of that, we’ve been impacted directly or know someone who has gotten sick from the virus or has been furloughed from their job, laid off, or experienced pay cuts. Needless to say, social morale is not at its highest right now. This got me thinking about happiness and marketing and can happiness make us better marketers.

Happiness and Marketing

Happiness? And Marketing? …What?
Interview with JoAnna Brandi

by Angela Long

We’re all currently living through WFH (Work From Home) and social distancing measures. On top of that, we’ve been impacted directly or know someone who has gotten sick from the virus or has been furloughed from their job, laid off, or experienced pay cuts. Needless to say, social morale is not at its highest right now. This got me thinking about happiness and marketing and can happiness make us better marketers. We decided that yes, there is a connection and it’s important enough factor to include in the 2020-2021 session of the Marketing Mentors Network, We are excited to be collaborating with JoAnna Brandi, a Certified Chief Happiness Officer (CHO), a Happiness Coach and specialist in creating Customer Loyalty and Happiness. JoAnna is the creator of the Online Course: Practice Positive Leadership: Use the Science of Happiness to Engage Your Employees and Keep Your Customers Happy. JoAnna is an authorized partner of “Happiest Places to Work” and helps companies measure happiness as a KPI.

We caught up virtually with JoAnna this week. JoAnna gave us some insight into “happiness.”

Angela Long: First of all, what exactly is “happiness”?

JoAnna Brandi: Tough question – one that I usually avoid answering since it is so subjective. I will say that “happiness” is a state of BodyMind usually marked by the experience of positive emotions. You could say “happiness” is subjective well-being. 

“Happiness” is only one of many positive emotions. I find that sometimes “happiness” itself may be inaccessible to someone but maybe “love” is available or maybe “curiosity” or one of the many other positive emotions is within reach. Personally, I may go to an emotion like “amusement” to inch my way towards “happiness.” 

AL: Until I signed up for a leadership course earlier this year for which you were a speaker, I had no idea that “happiness” was a “thing,” much less an area of business. What made you decide on going into the field/becoming a CHO and how did you make the transition?

JB: Before I started my own business, I was pretty happy running the Direct Marketing Division of CMP Media in New York City. I’d grown it from a tiny little 2 person division to a dozen plus people that created millions of dollars in revenue for the company. But after 12 years, the company management changed and I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay there. I also wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do next – I starting asking questions of my favorite customers. I asked them what I did well – and almost to the person they told me that I had set high standards for customer service in the direct marketing industry and if I could help companies do a better job of that then I should pursue that, so this former “intrapreneur” started a company called Integrated Marketing Systems that attempted to marry the acquisition process – aka marketing – with the retention process – which many of us should think of as “after –marketing.” As I grew, my customers told me what they needed. I created it and that led the direction of my company. Before I knew it I was writing a book on customer retention – got the URL and off I went into what was the very beginning of a field we now know as Customer Experience. 

I got into “happiness” by chance. 16 or so years ago a friend suggested I attend a “teleclass” that was being run by Dr. Martin Seligman. I was a big fan of his since he wrote the book Learned Optimism and that book was influential in my life. While listening to Marty speak I felt a shock of electricity surge from the top of my head down to the ground – uh-oh – I knew I was hooked – that started a journey that would change my life, and impact my business in all kinds of ways.

AL: How do companies implement “happiness” and how do they measure it so they know when they are successful?

JB: Companies don’t implement “happiness” – happiness is an end result of paying attention to a number of criteria that matter to people: How well matched their strengths are with the jobs they do, how engaged they are, whether or not they feel they have a friend a work, whether or not they feel supported by their boss, the degree of autonomy and control they have, whether they feel supported, whether they feel a sense of purpose and have some pleasure in their work. Recognition. You know just what they are – when you are happy at a job it’s because of a number of different elements all coming together to create an experience that – if it’s done right – makes you feel valued and appreciated and happy to come to work each day. 

Happiness comes as a result of leaders creating a positive climate, positive relationships, positive communication and instilling positive meaning – being connected to something larger, outside of oneself. 

AL: How has the pandemic affected our happiness? 

JB: Big question. It’s impacted happiness because our day to day has been disrupted – many people don’t like change and that impacts happiness. 

And it’s very personal – if the pandemic has impacted one’s health or income it’s probably impacted happiness more. If it’s given you more time with family and cut out your commute, it might have had a positive effect.  

I find people are looking to FIND things to appreciate, are counting their blessings and learning to adjust to doing more things online. Since happiness, positivity and well-being all contribute to our health and immune function I am encouraging people to find islands of happiness or joy in their lives to keep healthy. 

AL: In addition to being a CHO, you are also a former marketer. Can “happiness” help us to be better marketers, and if so, how?

JB: There are great benefits for marketers – Positive emotions have a definite effect on brain and body –  opening up the learning centers in brain, making us more creative and innovative, making new perspectives possible. They make us healthier, smarter and more socially adept – all skills we need in marketing. 

I help people who want to measure happiness as a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) and some clients get astounding results in creativity and innovation when they put the effort on building happiness habits at work – – as high an 400% increase in innovation – that ought to make all marketers open their eyes to the benefits of deliberately creating more positive emotions in their lives.  

AL: We’re excited that you will be joining the Marketing Mentors Network program as our happiness advisor for the 2020-2021 session. Why is it important to think about happiness when goal setting? How can happiness help protégés and mentors be better in their roles?

JB: Being in a state of happiness  – or positive emotion – can give you a broader perspective and that’s important in goal setting. When the human brain is in the state of positive emotions – even our peripheral vision widens! 

And the actual goals that you set need to make you happy in some ways for them to be motivating. You can set a big hairy audacious goal for yourself but if it doesn’t actually make you happy to think about achieving it, then you need to reconsider whether it’s the right goal for you. 

AL: You will be leading a session on leadership for the Marketing Mentors Network in the spring. What’s the connection between leadership and happiness? Seems a little Pollyanna-ish and feel good vs driving business growth.

JB: After 30 years of being a consultant… I can tell you that leaders make the difference – ALL the difference in how people behave at work. Just think back to your own work experience – when you had a “great boss” and felt happy at work – how did you perform? We naturally want to do well for people who appreciate us and care about us. 

People in companies that focus on well-being and happiness have 31% more productivity; 37% higher sales; employees are more than 2 times as likely to adapt well to change! 36% more likely to recover fully after illness or injury; they take 41% more sick days; are ten times more engaged have 125% less burnout are significantly  3 – 10 times more creative and these companies are 21% more profitable! There is nothing Pollyannaish about it! There is now significant research on the connection between happiness and profitability. 

AL: What advice do you have for others who want to be happier? Are there any resources or books you can recommend?

JoAnna BrandiJB: There are so many places people can go. I have spoken for one of my favorite companies – WOHASU – The World Happiness summit and that program is available to
listen to anytime. There are so many places to explore on their website. They have an
annual summit – which was cancelled this year just days before we were due in Miami to attend. We’ll be back next year in March!

As far as books – same thing – so many. I love Learned Optimism and Flourish by Dr. Martin Seligman; The Happiness Advantage and anything by Shaun Achor; 10% Happier by Dan Harris for the real skeptics; Positivity and LOVE 2.0 by Barbara Frederickson; Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson; The How of Happiness by Sonya Lyubomirsky

I’ve got so many and I find them all great! Even the Dali Lama has a book on Happiness – and it’s wonderful! And of course, everyone is welcome to take my courses and access the resources on my websites:

www.ReturnOnHappiness.com – Sign up for my “Muse-letter”
www.PositiveEnergizer.com – Find out about my online learning experience and take the assessment to find out if you are a positive leader
www.PositiveLeadershipCoaching.com – gives you access to a free 25 minutes strength consult with me 

I also have a fun little gift book – 54 Ways to Stay Positive in a Changing Challenging and Sometimes Negative World


Angela – Thank you for inviting me to talk to you and to the Marketing Mentors Network. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Learn more about the Marketing Mentors Network 2020-2021 session here


Data sources:

What Wellbeing Means in the Coronavirus Era

The Happiness Dividend

Happiest Places to Work


This interview has been edited and condensed.