You are here

The Ministry of Happiness

 “Gross National Product (GNP) measures everything…except that which makes life worthwhile” said Robert Kennedy. Forty years on David Cameron has picked up Kennedy’s idea and instructed government statisticians to begin measuring quality of life in psychological terms. 

In a nutshell the idea is this. Government has many roles but its core goal is to ensure the happiness of citizens.  Helping create wealth is an important part of this. After all, money buys a better standard of living. However, there comes a point once material needs have been met. From heron in happiness is determined more by life’s intangibles such as companionship and peace-of-mind. That’s why governments should monitor Gross National Happiness (GNH) alongside Gross National Product (GNP).

Now, not everyone agrees with this idea but my point isn’t political. Rather I just thought there was an interesting parallel.  Companies, it struck me, are similar in some ways to governments. We have citizens (customers, employees, channel partners, shareholders), we have leaders (the Board) and our focus is on measuring wealth creation (revenue and profitability). And we too should each have our own GNH index. An index which measures the happiness of our ‘citizens’, is regularly monitored at Board level and for which targets are set just as we would for financial growth. The reasons for doing so aren’t altruistic; they’re commercial. Reasons like customer loyalty, motivated employees and more productive channel partner relationships.

In our parallel world, we marketers sit in the Ministry of Happiness because the essence of our role concerns the interface between company and the key citizen group of customers. And like the current UK government, we need a coalition. Its exact composition will differ but key members might be HR as employees need to embody the brand and Sales because in B2B they often ‘own’ the customer relationship. 

Before I stretch the analogy too far let me return to UK’s planned GNH index. Measurement begins in April but think-tank The New Economics Foundation (NEF) provides an insight into the likely outcome. NEF’s National Accounts of Well-being measure contentment in 22 European countries and find that Denmark tops the league. The UK comes fifteenth. Maybe Cameron’s onto something after all.