How can I be happy? 

Editor’s note: Martin Oxley is managing director of buzzback Europe. Buzzback is a market research firm based in New York. 

Since the Age of the Enlightenment, humans have asked this question, igniting many debates on what individuals can do to make themselves feel happier. In 2022, buzzback launched its research study into the current state of happiness worldwide. The agency talked to people in four different markets (Brazil, China, the U.K. and the U.S.) to explore the link between happiness and brand success – which is significant during times of political unrest, an increase in the cost of living and a global pandemic. 

This research was shared at The Market Research Society's 2022 Impact conference in a session chaired by Jenny Lindsay, director of client services, buzzback, with panelists Christian Niederauer, global head of insights and consumer affairs, Colgate-Palmolive; Dieter Deceuninck, global director of strategy and insights, Danone Waters and Aquadrinks; and Yigit Kocak, global strategic insights manager, Mondelēz.

Researching how families define happiness

One of the most prevalent topics throughout the discussion was familial kinship. Connection to fond memories, especially in times of need, is where families become so important. They're known to bring joy, relieve stress and improve our well-being, and so many of us depend on our families to ignite happiness. 

Buzzback's study revealed that family is the most important value in all markets – with 62% of respondents claiming that our families define happiness. Furthermore, 88% of respondents' chose “spending time with family” as the best activity for meeting their happiness needs. 

Brands can capitalize on the family aspect of happiness by highlighting their ability to induce happy memories and accentuate a meaning behind the product that consumers can reminisce on and increase their happiness in the process, which ultimately reflects positively on the brand and product itself.

Dieter Deceuninck of Danone Waters and Aquadrinks emphasized this point, "Bonding with your kids, your family and making sure that we glorify and make these moments rich rituals, where sharing products such as chocolate and water are playing a small part in becoming interesting enablers of happiness."

When defining happiness, mental and physical health matter

Physical and mental health are two other essential aspects that are extremely valuable in terms of happiness. Research proves that a healthy mind and body can lead to joy and dissipate negative emotions. Moreover, the discourse surrounding the necessity to take care of mental and physical well-being is dominant in society. This is especially important for brands with products that are used to make people feel healthier and better about themselves.

Christian Niederauer, global head of insights and consumer affairs, Colgate-Palmolive, used Colgate as an example of how brands can drive happiness due to their health benefits: “Colgate is a key driver of people’s happiness because we can influence the physical health of someone’s life, which in turn benefits their mental health. The definition of a smile is often superficial, but our products fundamentally make people feel optimistic, which is one of our important brand values.”

Portrait of black dad and daughter brushing teeth and looking in the mirror in the bathroom

Respondents to the study reinforced the importance of how mental and physical health impact positive emotions, with a global average of 59% and 57% of participants ranking them as their top two associations with happiness, respectively.

Sustainability is here to stay

Undoubtedly, sustainability has become a hot topic in recent times. The advantages of a sustainability-focused future have become an essential factor for consumers. Brands that have adapted and become more environmentally conscious have reaped benefits in terms of consumer perception, while those who haven’t have faced the ire of consumers. 

Yigit Kocak, global strategic insights manager, Mondelēz, explained that focus on the environment and sustainability will remain a prominent trend for brands: “Collective drivers behind happiness, such as a sustainable future, are becoming equally as important to consumer’s happiness – just as important as other significant aspects such as physical and mental well-being.”

The focus brands put on the environment and sustainability acts as a collective driver that makes consumers feel they contribute to a better society and make a change. So, it’s no surprise that 70% of global respondents named sustainability their most valued brand initiative, according to the study.

What will happiness look like in the future?

Current and future events, like the global pandemic and ongoing unrest in Ukraine, may change how consumers define happiness. Brands need to keep track of what makes consumers happy and how they can adhere to and implement the values and initiatives that spark this sentiment. As Deceuninck mentions, “Happiness is the small steps, but when they come together, they’re big. The insights industry must make sure we see these shifts and learn how people live differently.”

If you would like to view the full study or webinar on the topic, please contact