Joy is Serious Business

Why businesses should consider incorporating joy into their brands

Joy is often thought of as a warm, fuzzy, nice-to-have emotion. It is a feeling of glee that exists for a small time, like hearing a baby laugh or being surprised by a show of fireworks, and then poof! It’s gone. It’s a universal truth that joy is great to experience, so why don’t more of us intentionally integrate it into our lives?

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

We are planning an event around sparking joy with Ingrid Fetell Lee, designer and author of the book, Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, as well as the blog The Aesthetics of Joy. What we’re finding through our preparation for this event is that joy is actually a need-to-have — especially at work. From social media to marketing to branding, joy is finding its place in the world of business.

Former Design Director at IDEO, Ingrid studies the feeling of joy and its relationship to the physical world. Her findings are fascinating and have inspired us in ways we’d never have expected. What once was a random feeling we experienced at work on occasion is now something we are strategically designing for, knowing how much it will benefit us and those our company serves.

We’ve been learning as much as we can about this elusive feeling, and wow — joy is serious business. It is something we all have access to but don’t always connect with. Think back to some of your favorite childhood memories. Chances are they are so memorable because they were joyful.

The reasons to tap into joy are endless (excitement, fun, reduced anxiety, higher productivity, etc.), but one we’re particularly interested in is how joy can be used as an Enrollment tool. Incorporating joy into your business via social media, marketing, branding, and physical spaces and products is an effective way to enroll customers into your business or idea. If you want to have impact, if you want to create a better future for yourself, your employees, your customers, and your community, you’d be well suited to begin prioritizing joy.

Here are some examples in the wild of the serious business of joy:

Social Media

Social media is is a treasure chest of joy, particularly the image-driven Instagram. When looking at some of the most followed business accounts, the overarching trend is that those with the most followers are the ones which make people feel good.

If you scroll through Adobe’s Instagram feed, you will be barraged with beautiful and joyful images. Its photos featuring nature, bright colors, and mesmerizing patterns receive tens of thousands of likes apiece. The captions are inspirational and they don’t push Adobe and its products, but appreciation for the company is a byproduct of Adobe’s attention to what puts smiles on Instagram users’ faces. It’s hard to leave Adobe’s Instagram feed without feeling a little bit better than you did when you got there.

Adobe's Instagram feed is a good example of incorporating joy into business

Another joyful social media profile is that of Dogs of Instagram. Each post features a dog and a sweet little quote written by the owner of the pup, and the account has amassed 4.4 million followers since its launch in 2011. Dogs are universally a source of happiness, and like Adobe’s Instagram feed, Dogs of Instagram’s account leaves viewers with an undeniable feeling of joy — one which makes devotees out of its followers.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes bring joy to Dogs of Instagram

It makes sense that the business accounts with the highest number of followers make people feel good. After enough interactions, Instagram users begin to associate positive feelings with those brands. Why wouldn’t a brand want to create those emotional connections? Using social media to elicit joyful sensations among its followers is an artful way of enrolling customers into a product or service, and good examples of this are easy to find.


Many companies are taking the concept of joy so far as to incorporate its elements into their branding. Target’s new athletic brand, JoyLab, has joy at the forefront by incorporating it into its name. But it also lives into the emotion through its bright colors, patterns and inspired designs. Take a trip through the women’s section at Target and it’s hard to pass by the JoyLab section without giving it a second glance. The beautifully arranged items feature new and unique shapes for athletic wear while also giving off the vibe that you will feel this joy if you own these clothes, making the feeling tangible and achievable.

JoyLab at Target is in the business of joy

JoyLab connects business to joy


Ingrid Fetell Lee questions why workplaces are so often drowning in cubicles, boring beige carpets and drab walls when adults spend around a third of our waking life at work. In this IDEO article, she says research reveals that feeling joy at work increases wellbeing, performance, problem-solving, and cognitive flexibility, to name just a few benefits. One way to infuse the workspace with joy is to add design elements, like color, plants, and light. In the pictures below you’ll see that Minnesota Nice Cream has all of those aesthetics and then some. It is a real-life Candy Land! The cotton candy colors mixed with the glittering ice cream toppings make this place a haven for joy-seekers. Even its mobile food truck, with its ribbons of electric colors, evoke a sense of joy.

Ingrid goes on to say in the IDEO article that when salespeople exhibit joy, customers respond by spending more time in a store, giving higher satisfaction ratings, and expressing a greater likelihood to return. Why wouldn’t you want to return to a place like Minnesota Nice Cream? This space design is good business, thoroughly inspired by joy.

Joy at MN Nice Cream



Strip marketing down to its most bare elements and you are left with the concept of enrolling people. That is marketing’s sole purpose: to get people to buy into your ideas and, hopefully later your products and services. Last holiday season, Target created moments of spontaneous joy in New York City by placing a giant boombox in a park. The cherry red boombox was attached to a cord, but the cord wasn’t plugged into the big outlet located yards away. The boombox flashed “low battery” and later, “please plug in.” Curious park dwellers carried the oversized cord to the outlet to see what would happen. Once plugged in, the park lit up with sparkling lights, the boombox came to life by blasting music and dozens of dancers streamed out of a nearby bus, doing cartwheels and backflips, spreading more joy with each movement.

The smiles on the onlookers’ faces say everything you need to know about this marketing campaign: it succeeded in creating joy. Target is not a company in need of more brand recognition. But no company — no matter how well known or loved — is exempt from the need to continuously and creatively connect with its customers. Spreading joy is a strategic way to keep your enrollment fresh and continuous.

Physical products

HiBAR is a salon-quality shampoo and conditioner brand which completely omits plastic from its product. When you receive a HiBAR product, the compostable box is sealed with a cute round sticker that says, “Hi, nice to meet you.” Just below the list of ingredients is this little note: “Made with love by HiBAR Inc.” The product itself is a soft, playful design, which you can see in the image below. These little surprises bring joy and delight to interactions with the company. We were enrolled into trying the product by its eco-friendly design (it was also created by a Studio/E member!) but we continue to follow this brand because of the experience it provides.

HiBAR products are joyful

Joy may be intangible, but it’s possible (and encouraged!) to create bits of joy in your business. If you don’t do it in an effort to enroll potential customers or users, do it for yourself and your team. Joy is an in-the-moment feeling, but over time, moments of joy add up to create great happiness. And if you ask us, that is something worth pursuing.

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When was the last time you felt sincere joy? What brought the feeling on? When was the last time you made someone else feel it? Thinking of those moments, how could you intentionally incorporate more of this powerful emotion into your business?

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