At first glance it looks normal. It looks like a line. It sounds like a line. It reads like a line.
Because it isn’t normal at all. It’s been brandified.
‘Find your happy’. You can see how they got there. Rightmove is all about finding a home, but research probably told them that moving house is an emotive time (“find your stress” might be more appropriate). So they’ve mushed that research into a line and swapped homes for happiness. Happy is now promoted to a noun, a thing you can get from the App Store.
The marketing team likes it because it’s campaignable and internal comms love it because the people who work there can write what makes them happy in marker pen.
But nobody, not even Pharrell Williams with his “if you feel like a room without a roof” spiel says “Has anyone seen my happy? I’ve put it down somewhere.” It’s nonsense. Looks like a line, but isn’t.
It keeps happening. Here’s an ad campaign for Travelodge that’s turned the humble ‘weekend’ into a verb.
As if it’d be perfectly normal to say things like ‘let’s go weekending’. Ugh.
Back to house hunting again, here’s Zoopla turning the word ‘smart’ into a person:
It’s not just that these lines sound silly when you say them aloud, which we’d say is reason enough to get out the red pen. It’s that the words at the heart of each campaign – ‘happy’, ‘weekend’, ‘smart’ are so banal. And literal: how can we say smart? Write ‘smart’. Happy? Write ‘happy’. Unpick them and it becomes even more obvious that there’s nothing there – ‘if you find your home you’ll be happy’; ‘everyone likes weekends’; ‘smart people use Zoopla’. They sound like the very first brief.
These brands haven’t moved words around to push the limits of the English language – it’s not exactly Eimear McBride – but to cover up that there wasn’t much of an idea to start with. It’s the sort of thing strategists and planners unwittingly do all the time when they write brand positioning presentations and the like. Maybe marketing people have got so used to reading branding nonsense that they can’t spot a genuinely smart idea from a line with the word ‘smart’ in it.
David Abbott, we miss you already.