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Tag: joy

The (magical) power of delight

An unexpected gift from Mother Nature – a heart in the mud. Delightful.

Yesterday was a gift of a day.

Despite being only a week away from Thanksgiving, the temperature soared to sixty-five degrees under nearly cloudless, bright blue skies. The unseasonably beautiful weather lifted spirits, dissolved the Monday Blues, and incited several spontaneous acts of truancy.

The day was truly delightful.

 

Delightful (n): great pleasure; joy … [Middle English delit, from Old French, a pleasure, from delitier, to please, charm …]1

 

Delightful is not a word we use very often. It seems, perhaps, slightly antiquated for our times – a little too naive, a little too simple.

Such a shame.

To me, delight is more than just pleasure or even joy. Delight embodies a more complex feeling that is layered with the sense of having been given a gift (as in when we say, “Delighted to meet you”) and a sense of surprise – of happily coming upon some unexpected goodness, beauty, or kindness.

 

So, to be delighted is to be gently jolted out of your everyday existence by someone or something presenting you with an unexpected gift.

 

As I strolled down the sunny side of the street on my way to the deli, I thought about things that bring delight: receiving a smile from a stranger, watching a dog’s exuberant play, or hearing a favorite song. I remembered the way an unexpected note from a friend (written by hand and sent via old-fashioned snail mail) warmed my heart with its unanticipated arrival and generosity of time and emotion.

The things that bring delight are usually small and simple. They are unasked for treasures that brighten our day and restore our faith in the virtue of humanity. They are the unassuming tokens, words, and experiences that pull us, for a moment, outside the daily grind and into a new, more positive perspective.

 

Delight opens us up.

 

Without requiring vulnerability or confession, delight invites us to be in a space where good things happen. It invites us to see the best in people and situations. It reminds us that, as savvy and cynical as we might be sometimes, we never really lost our capacity for joy and wonder.

Delight can come from many quarters, but it rarely turns up in a business context. When it does, it is so unexpected and feels so much like a gift that its presence creates a dramatic shift in how customers perceive your brand and your brand’s value. It can transform your relationship and open up new opportunities to interact on an entirely different level.

So, I’m wondering, is delight a part of your brand? 

 

 

 

1 The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000

 

Freeform Friday: In the Company of Cats

CoCats1My entire house, upstairs and down, is covered in a fine, gauzy layer of white cat fur. No matter how often I take measures to clear away this soft mantle of domestic disarray, it remains in place like a persistent fog – collecting in small drifts in corners, settling into couch crannies, and attaching itself to every item of clothing I own. It seems to have a preternatural preference for black fabrics.

Living under these conditions might once have driven me mad. Now, it just makes me smile. I consider it a sign of spring and an excuse to embrace the balanced imperfection of my housekeeping skills. Though some might be offended by its pervasive presence, to me the cat hair is a happy reminder of the two felines with whom my daughter and I share our home. Or, perhaps I should say, who share their home with us.

CoCats3There is an art to living with cats. Mostly, it is about surrender and letting them take the lead. (Cats are not followers.) It is also about acquiring an appreciation of life’s finer pleasures. Cats consider our frantic lifestyle hopelessly backward and try to civilize us by demonstrating a more refined approach including midday naps, indoor sunbathing, luxurious stretches, explosive bursts of lawless abandon, and midnight snacks.

Cats are a study in dichotomies. Though they can be quite amorous, they often appear aloof, doling out their affections according to an illogical and unpredictable system that involves the phases of the moon, the probability of treats, and the wild card of the feline heart. They play hard to get, while we are unabashedly smitten. When they finally bestow their attention, it is all the sweeter for having been withheld.

Our feline friends are a complex combination of the domestic and the primeval. Though they share our homes, they always retain something of their feral origins. They remind us that nature can never be fully tamed. Few sounds are as soothing as the hum and rumble of a cat’s purr, but even in that quintessentially contented sound, you can hear the echoes of a satisfied tiger.

CoCats2Grace and comedy never found so suitable a home as in the spirit of a cat. Cats embody both the monarch and the jester, being equally at home reigning supreme or acting the fool over a toy mouse or a bit of catnip. The feline heart embraces sophistication and frivolity simultaneously, refusing to acknowledge that there is anything unusual about their union. No other creature has such a capacity for poise.

But perhaps the cat’s most charming attribute is its talent for surprise. Cats are full of delightful inconsistencies. Just when you think you have them figured out, they do something unexpected and set you back to puzzling out their minds and motives. Unlike humans, they are impervious to the dangers of wearisome routine, changing things up on a whim.

Case in point, the younger of our two cats, Cinder, has not sat in my lap since she and her mama, Bella, first came to live with us nearly a year ago. However, as I sat on the couch with my laptop (having been displaced from my desk by Bella who had once again appropriated my chair for the purpose of napping) Cinder hopped up and, without any preamble, arranged herself neatly on my lap. Perhaps she knew I was writing about cats. Maybe she just thought it would be amusing to watch my contortions as I tried to type without disturbing her.

CoCats4In my life, I have had the privilege and pleasure of knowing many cats. When I was but a babe, there was Thumper, a honey-colored, double-pawed gent. Tinker was born among the delivery trucks at the old Ipswich Dairy and lived to the venerable age of twenty. Willy, born in the hollow apple tree behind my childhood home at the top of Spring Street, commuted for years to my parents’ printing company on High Street. Suki, another feral cat, was born in our garage and proved to be a singularly cantankerous but loyal companion. And now, we have Cinder and Bella, adopted from the Ipswich Humane Group. Together, they bring us daily doses of love, laughter, and feline wisdom. How lucky we are to be in the company of cats.

The 3 Secret Ingredients of Viral Video

Every once in a while, a video shoots across the internet like a brilliant comet and sweeps us social dweebs along in its wake as we “Like,” tweet, and share ourselves into a frenzy. I have been amused and often moved to tears by what I see through these digital windows – moments of joy, tenderness, mischief and mayhem. After a late-night binge on some of my favorites, I also became fascinated with what made these particular videos stand out in my mind (and heart!).

In case you haven’t had the pleasure of doing nothing for an hour – 4 minutes and 7 seconds at a time – here are a few examples of the types of videos I’m talking about:

JK Wedding Dance
This is the wedding processional that made headlines and sent the happy couple on a whirlwind tour of the talk show circuit.

Sound of Music, Antwerp Station
Though this was, in fact, a publicity stunt for a reality TV show; this particular “flash mob” dance struck a chord with millions of viewers and spawned a slew of knock-offs. Makes me cry every time.

Backstreet Office
This one’s just plain adorable.

Hallejulah Hugs Italy
Sweet and thought-provoking at the same time – and with a soundtrack that brings a lump to your throat.

Okay, now you’ve spent twenty minutes watching videos that have nothing to do with work … or, do they?

Here’s the thing. Viral is viral. Brands (especially start-ups) are always trying to find that Next Big Thing, the Brilliant Idea that will jettison them into the limelight, if only for those brief but powerful fifteen minutes of fame. Instead of focusing on doing the same kinds of things other companies are doing, why not go direct to the source and take a closer look at the naturally occurring viral videos that capture our collective imagination, causing us to interrupt each other’s days with messages like, “You have to see this – best video ever!”

After watching these (and, ahem, a few more) videos, here’s my list of the 3 secret ingredients of the really great viral video:

STORY: There are “funny videos” that make the rounds and have a fairly short lifespan, and then there are the videos like the ones above that keep burning long after their initial flash. An important part of their longer-term appeal is the element of story. Though the stories told may be incomplete, they are there. Without anyone having to explain anything, we get a sense of the “before and after” that surround the moment captured on video. There’s the story of a happy couple launching themselves joyously into their new life, the story of strangers coming together spontaneously to share a moment, the story of what happens when you leave a bunch of interns alone for too long with video-enabled laptops and a classic 90’s boy band ballad, the story of humanity – our separation, loneliness, connection, acceptance – of letting the barriers down.

Human beings need stories. Stories are how we interpret our world – for ourselves and for others. Stories create common language which helps us find common ground. In the context of marketing, stories help increase comprehension, connection, retention, and they are also a great deal more persuasive than non-narrative content. Every good story, whether fiction or non-fiction, has a structure or “arc” that include set-up, build-up, and release. Watch the videos again and you’ll see what I mean.

HUMANITY: You’ll notice that each of the four examples above stars “ordinary people.” There aren’t any spokespeople, no one is in costume, no one looks perfect, no one is reading from a script. The imperfections of the “stars” are part of the charm. We can relate to these people. They are just like us. They could be us. There’s nothing rehearsed about these “performances.” Even in the Sound of Music piece (which was obviously rehearsed … a lot), the illusion of spontaneity is utterly complete. It’s like when everyone bursts into song and dance in Central Park. (Happens to me all the time.)

Story and humanity combine to create an arrow that shoots straight through the heart. Overtly or subtly, we are reminded of what’s most important – the stuff of Real Life. For a moment, we see more clearly, feel connected, and understood. Things make sense. We feel good about being part of the human race.

JOY & DELIGHT:
Maybe I’m cheating a little on the “3 secrets,” but I think these two really go hand-in-hand. Each of my video picks is virtually bursting at the seams with joy and delight. Watch the faces – the happy couple, the dancers and the bystanders in Antwerp Station, the smiles of the huggers and hug-ees. Even in the pseudo-serious “Backstreet office” video, there is a warm camaraderie that you know will have those workers cracking up when the cameras stop rolling. That joy spills over out of the screen and creates delight in the viewer. Tell me you weren’t smiling ear-to-ear watching these clips. You can’t help it – it’s like instant grin!

Alex Leo wrote (in 2009) about the Sound of Music video for Huffington Post, and he said, “We’re in a global economic crisis, America’s fighting two wars, there’s genocide in Darfur, AIDs running rampant, and a pretty good shot that we could all be killed by bird flu in a year or two. We need this video.” He’s right. What this video and others like it deliver that the simply “funny” videos don’t is a sense of hope. A “funny” video – a cynical joke, pratfall, or satire – might make people laugh for a minute; but a video that captures a sense of joy, delight, and hope … well, that’s one that will keep people coming back again and again.

So, what does all this have to do with creating viral videos for your business?
Everything.
There isn’t really any secret formula for creating a viral video. The recipe involves a great idea, perfect timing, and a fair amount of luck. However, if you “get” these three elements – Story, Humanity, Joy & Delight – and if you can find a way to blend them into your video, you stand a pretty good chance of creating something that goes beyond the reach of business and into the realm of Real Life. And that, my friends, is where the really good stuff happens.

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