Building a brand can be complex, with so many different factors to consider. Even once you have an idea of what your brand identity is, you have to weigh up the best way to communicate this through marketing campaigns and messaging. Depending on your brand, you’ll need to work out a tone of voice and approach that fits this desired identity, and doing this is no simple task.
Some brands opt for a technical approach that seeks to reassure consumers, others opt for edgy humor or a sense of heritage and legacy. One approach that is increasingly popular is feel-good marketing, but just as social media clap-backs or big-budget Superbowl commercials aren’t the right fit for every brand — reaching for a feel-good campaign isn’t always the right thing to do. It all depends on your brand, your goals, and of course, your target audience.
In this article, we’ll explore what feel-good marketing is, how you can build a feel-good campaign, what the benefits of this approach are and how you can decide if it is right for your brand.
What Is Feel-Good Marketing?
Feel-good marketing, sometimes also known as joy marketing, is the term used to describe campaigns that are designed to fill consumers with positive vibes. The aim of these campaigns is to create a positive emotional experience that forges a deeper bond between the target audience and the brand.
It’s arguably a sub-category of emotional marketing, but by focusing on the positive, these types of campaigns can provide a route for brands to not just promote themselves but also contribute to ongoing conversations about health and wellbeing — and whether brands can contribute more to society than simply being focused on profit and growth.
3 Examples Of Feel-Good Marketing Campaigns
There’s no set blueprint for how a feel-good campaign should look, and different brands have used different methods to get the dopamine flowing. To help demonstrate exactly how they work, here are three feel-good marketing campaigns from well-known brands.
One brand that definitely understands the power of feel-good marketing is the fast-food giant McDonald’s. It’s a tool they have used liberally over the years to recentre the brand’s identity and help it move past the negative associations and concerns about the healthiness of their offering — which peaked in the early 2000s with the release of the documentary Super Size Me.
McDonald’s latest campaign exerts pure positive energy (is there anything more feel-good than simply watching people giggle and laugh?). The 60-second ad was devised for British and Irish markets by the ad agency, Leo Burnett. Their executive creative director Mark Elwood described the concept behind the latest campaign:
“When someone says ‘Fancy a McDonald’s?’ it’s rarely an invitation you turn down. In this beautifully simple film, we show what taking a moment to let go of life’s pressures feels like through the simple joy of laughter. A McDonald’s can nourish the soul as well as the body.”
This campaign is just one of many that are part of the brand’s renewed focus on building positive emotional relationships with consumers. McDonald’s director of global brand, Colin Mitchell, elaborated on their approach:
“Our idea is that every point of interaction around the brand, however mundane … can be a moment of delight – and, in doing that, can kind of become the equivalent for the brand and the product itself.”
Sportswear’s biggest brand is also a master of feel-good marketing. From its positivity-infused swoosh-symbol logo (which is basically a tick ✔) to its empowering slogan “Just Do It”, Nike understands that making consumers feel good is a vital part of its brand identity.
Being so closely related to the world of sports means the brand can (and so often does) piggyback on the emotional feel-good resonance of finally achieving a sporting goal, playing as part of a team, or cheering on your favorite athletes in a packed stadium.
The brand’s 2020 campaign, You Can’t Stop Us, was primarily a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was one of many feel-good campaigns that year, but through the creative use of stock footage, it delivered an impactful message of unity and perseverance through difficult times.
More known for its risky publicity stunts and most recently for controversies around alleged toxic work practices, BrewDog is another brand that has reached for feel-good marketing in response to the global pandemic.
It may have an ulterior motive, as it tries to repair its damaged brand but giving away your product for free is surely the very definition of positivity. BrewDog’s free beer campaign is not the first time it has given its brews away for free, indeed it had already utilized its distillery to make free hand sanitizer during the first waves of the pandemic in 2020.
Alongside its message of free beer, the brand was eager to promote green credentials of their latest brew as part of their campaign to pivot the BrewDog brand to one associated with inclusivity and sustainability. However, the craft-beer brand is no stranger to creative, headline-grabbing campaigns and has come under criticism in the past for the disconnect between what it says and how it acts.
The Benefits Of Feel-Good Marketing
Looking at the examples above, it's plain to see that brands reach for a feel-good marketing campaign when they really want to connect with consumers on an emotional level. The reasons for appealing to consumers’ emotions are plentiful — these campaigns can be memorable, they can inspire consumers to take action immediately or they can just foster a deeper relationship that gives your brand the edge over the competition.
A feel-good campaign can also be a great way of overriding negative associations acquired from a recent controversy, as McDonald’s or BrewDog demonstrated (though we’ll discuss later why this might be a risky move!)
A feel-good campaign doesn’t just have to be about growing your brand or driving profit though. B Lab’s B Corporation certification is part of a growing movement of businesses that are considering their place in society and prioritizing other functions such as how a business affects local communities and the environment, or whether it is accountable to a broad array of stakeholders rather than just shareholders.
In this regard, a feel-good campaign could, as part of a whole-brand strategy, just be part of your brand’s efforts to give back and be a responsible organization. It could just be the right thing to do, and when businesses and corporations do the right thing — support their communities and work in sustainable ways — the feel-good marketing campaigns might just create themselves.
How To Decide If Feel-Good Marketing Is Right For Your Brand
A feel-good campaign isn’t right for every brand. Of course, fast food, sportswear, and beer all lend themselves well to a campaign brimming with positivity. But for brands in sectors where consumers expect a serious approach to business, it might be best to stay straight-laced and focused on the details, rather than emotions.
This is certainly the case for brands related to people’s health and wellbeing, security, and safety, or brands that must win consumer trust, such as those in the financial sector.
That’s not to say that it shouldn’t be done at all, rather it should just be approached with more caution.
HSBC’s Not An Island campaign was intended as a celebration of global Britain with a “focus on the importance of being open and connected to the world”. But the campaign backfired and unintentionally drew the brand into the heated culture wars that surround Brexit.
So when thinking about whether a feel-good campaign is right for your brand, here are some important questions to consider first.
1. Is It Relevant To Your Target Audience?
For your feel-good campaign to be successful, you first need to make sure it will resonate with your target audience. Do they already associate your brand with positivity and is this something they expect?
By looking at your target audiences and assessing their current relationship with your brand, you’ll have a better idea of the best way to create a stronger emotional connection with them moving forward.
2. Could Your Campaign Feel Insincere?
A feel-good campaign isn’t the solution to bad publicity. Consumers increasingly expect brands to be honest and transparent.
If you’ve done something that has made your target audience unhappy, the best way to confront this is with sincerity. Using a feel-good campaign to paper over the cracks of your brand image may just make things worse!
3. Does A Feel-Good Approach Line Up With My Brand Messaging?
Regardless of the type of campaign you’re planning, consistency is always important. McDonald’s feel-good tv ads work so well because positivity is baked into its brand, from its bright golden arches logo to its slogan “I’m lovin’ it”. If your brand is known for being cynical, serious, prestigious, or technical, any campaign that suddenly pivots to a different tone may just confuse your audience.
While feel-good campaigns are a proven way of building emotional connections, they don’t work for every brand and, if this is the case for your brand, try to find a message that fits with your current approach, so you can build emotional connections with consumers whilst remaining consistent.
Lloyds Bank’s 2017 TV spot “By Your Side” is a good example of how a brand can create a strong emotional message while retaining a more somber or serious mood, with the brand’s sense of heritage taking precedence here.
A feel-good campaign is a great way to emotionally connect with your audience, but they’re not suited to all brands and all situations. As with any campaign type, they have both strengths and weaknesses, and figuring out whether they can work for your brand will ultimately come down to the results of audience analysis and brand tracking.
But if you make sure your positivity is genuine, consistent with your brand, and relevant to your target audience, then feel-good campaigns can present an opportunity to really connect with consumers — whether it's to overcome troubling world events as with the COVID 19 pandemic or just to share some love.