The phenomenon that is Happy, by singer songwriter, producer extraordinaire Pharrell Williams
In my seminars, I often speak about truth and authenticity — two values vital to branding. Post-GFC (Global Financial Crisis) these are the two values that seem to be much sought after to restore faith and hope in a world gone askew.
The song is simple and catchy but the power lies in one word: Happiness. For me, the best songs are those that marry social commentary with a great tune. Think of Imagine by John Lennon and Where Is The Love by The Black Eyed Peas — both are extremely insightful; plugged into the nation’s angst, and written from a place of truth, faith and hope that resonated with millions across the world.
In my class Branding 101, I always talk about the importance of obtaining golden nuggets of insight from the marketplace. In Happy, the nugget is that happiness is in short supply and put simply, the world needs more of it. And at 192.8 million YouTube views and over $4 million in sales, I guess the world agrees.
In an interview with Oprah, Williams talks about how the song did not really take off until the release of the video, which is a stroke of genius. Unlike many other videos of today, even Blurred Lines which topped the all-time download chart, Happy features no glamazons, famous fashionistas or icons styled to the hilt in a studio setting.
The song is simply set against the backdrop of cities, using real people of all various ethnicity, body shapes, fashion styles and social classes strutting their stuff and doing their thing.* The energy is infectious and the message is clear — happiness is available to all. And so Williams urges all of us to snap out of our discontent, our malaise and embrace happy: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is a truth, clap along if you know what happiness is to you.”
The video has inspired a multitude of remakes of people taking ownership of the song and getting happy : dancing and clapping along in places like Portugal, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Slovakia, the Philippines, Malawi, Detroit, London, Dakar, Germany, Iceland and Washington DC.
In their remake video of the song, a Muslim group called The Honesty Policy had this to say: “If this video has done anything, it is to galvanise a tremendous, unified and coherent community voice in its defence. Cross-cultural, inter-organisational, multi-ethnic; we have all become one. And what has been the unifying force? Happiness.” (Read more here in The Guardian)
Sometimes all it takes is a little thing called simplicity coupled with a giant dose of honesty to create a powerful movement.
Simple sells. Something to remember the next time you brand.
* with the exception of a few Minions here and there as a not-so-subtle plug for the movie Despicable Me 2 in which the song is featured. 🙂