Does Getting What You Want Make You Happy?


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Have you ever realised that sometimes wanting something can make you happier than actually having it? Let me give you an example. As we come up to the end of summer, I have just returned from a family vacation in England, which hardly has the reputation of being overly sunny. There is a reason that one of England’s most famous designers Burberry makes raincoats and plaid scarfs – they have had years to perfect them with field tests at any time of the year! When I lived in England I always felt better when the sun shone. In fact this is one reason I now live in Florida where the sun shines all the time. Only the other day, though, I was reflecting and realized the sunshine doesn’t give me the same lift as it used to. My happiness levels have normalized. This whole phenomenon on how we ‘normalize’ our happiness is fascinating and is critical to marketers and people wishing to improve the Customer Experience. Let me explain…

California Dreamin’

I read a study by one of my favorite psychologists, Dr. Daniel Kanheman with his associate, David Schkade, about the effects of sunshine on happiness. They named the study, ‘Does Living in California Make People Happy?’ For the study he and his associate interviewed large samples of students from the U.S., both from the Midwest and Southern California. They were testing their hypothesis that the students from Southern California, the land of perennial sun, would be happier than the students from the Midwest, where the saying goes “if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes for it to change.”

Their findings were what I suspected. The students from the Midwest and Southern California were equally happy. The Midwestern students were likely to complain about the weather, but they had generally the same satisfaction levels with their lives as the Californian students who never gave the weather a second thought.

California has a reputation for beckoning people to its sunny state with promises of a better life in the ‘warm, California sun’. The siren’s call of perpetual sun and beautiful sunny beaches filled with bikini clad girls driving fast cars creates a pull for people seeking a different, better life. From the gold rush prospectors of the mid-1800s, to the thousands arriving daily of would-be movie and rock stars in pursuit of their dreams, California has become a cliché of sorts for the American principle of the ‘pursuit of happiness’.

Kanheman and Schkade address this in their study. At the end of the paper they say, “It is not unlikely that some people might actually move to California in the mistaken belief that this would make them happier”. They went on to conclude;

“Our research suggests a moral, and a warning: Nothing that you focus on will make as much difference as you think.”

Walkin’ On Sunshine?

This is a concept that applies to the customer experience. In my post “Does Shopping Really Make You Happy?

“I discuss the idea that sometimes wanting something makes you happier than actually having it.”

The post explains that the idea of possessing a material object and the hunt for it will result in more positive emotions for the shopper than the actual purchase of it.

This concept can easily be applied to the scientists’ conclusion about Sunshine. I would amend their conclusion to read: “It is not unlikely that some people might actually BUY A PRODUCT in the mistaken belief that this would make them happier….” Essentially, the product could be a new pair of shoes or a home in the celebrity-laden hills of Malibu, but the end result is the same: no significant long-term improvement in overall happiness.

Perhaps that is why the 70’s singer-songwriter, John Denver, followed the opening line in his song, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy” with a line about how it also makes him cry. It is sometimes a real disappointment when you get the thing that you think will make you happy and find that you are not really any happier once you have it. One minute you are “Walking on Sunshine,” and the next you are crying out, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

When you are designing the ‘sunshine’ (good bits) of your customer experience, be aware that your Customer’s happiness will normalize quite quickly. They can, on occasions also revert to ‘buyer’s remorse’ that some customers experience after their purchase.

“Your product or service may live up to all your marketing department’s promises, but can it live up to your customer’s expectations?”

Understanding Customer’s emotional expectations is a critical part of the customer experience. These expectations are part of what your customer brings into the experience. When we train people on Customer Experience Management and experience design we make the point that understanding customer emotional expectations are key to design an emotionally engaging experience. Customers already have an expectation of how they will feel after they have bought it. If it doesn’t meet their expectations or cannot live up to the task it has been asked to perform, customer expectations can quickly turn into customer complaints.

Many journey mapping processes fail as they do not take into account the psychological aspects of the Customer Experience. This includes both rational and irrational, as well as the subconscious experience.

It’s Gonna Be a Bright, Bright, Sunshiny Day

Sunshine may not make us any happier but it does look lovely on the water! You need the right tools to make sure that your sunshine is as lovely as it looks on the water. You must also remember,

“wanting something can make you happier than actually having it and you need to design this into your experience.”

What are your customer’s emotional expectations?
Do you capture your customer’s emotional expectations?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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