By Craille Maguire Gillies
Why is shopping for shoes more fun for some people than shopping for groceries? Pscyhologists and economists have found that some purchasing decisions can buy a little slice of happiness. As Elizabeth Dunn, a University of British Columbia psychology professor told the Boston Globe, “Just because money doesn’t buy happiness doesn’t mean money cannot buy happiness. People just might be using it wrong.” The money that is.
In “Happiness: A Buyer’s Guide,” the Globe made the analogy that treating a friend (or colleague) to lunch will make you happier than buying a new outfit. “Splurging on a vacation,” the story continued, “makes us happy in a way that splurging on a car may not.”
A friend of mine once described a similar sentiment. “I prefer to buy experiences, not products.” (She’s a salesperson with a background in marketing, by the way.) Marketers have long picked up on this, selling the more complex, shiftier commodity of an experience for a premium. If you can make someone feel like they’re doing something good by upgrading the experience, all the better. And if you can hook they by giving them a taste of the experience – hence the neologism “trysuming” – your product, er, experience, is golden.
Happiness is everywhere these days. On mugs from Dollarama, in books (such as the new Happiness Project) and on the web (e.g. We Feel Fine). There are happy companies, happy cities and even a Happy Job Search. Tara Hunt, a Canadian social media expert working in San Francisco is even working on a book about happiness as a business model. And that’s not even getting into the niceness movement. As Slate blogger and Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin puts it, “Making people happy make people happy.” Now if only happiness grew on trees. U