Many people have been writing about the serious need these days to have more fun, joy and happiness in their lives and business. This leads me to ask the question:

Is fun a value to have as a brand? Call me Scrooge, but I tend to think not. Here’s why.

If trusted relationships, meaningfulness and having a sense of belonging are vital to a healthy and vibrant company culture, fun comes notably as an output. It’s important to experience enjoyment. However, I tend to believe that joy and satisfaction are the consequences of the right set of values and behaviours, and being successful. In essence, a brand with long-term aspirations has to have profound concepts and roots. Fun is nice, but it’s fleeting, not deep. Just like that short-lived genuine smile you have as you wait for a photograph to be taken. It doesn’t stick around for long.

Relationships based on fun?

I recently published a post riffing on the 3 types of friendship according to Aristotle. One of the qualifications of friendship is pleasure, aka hedonism. This brought back memories of how two competitive professional salon brands within the L’Oréal portfolio, Matrix and Redken (which I was running), battled over having the same value of “FUN.” While there were a few nuances in how we each interpreted “fun”, it was a genuine face-off. Who owned “fun”? Both were American-based brands that espoused a high energy spirit. In the end, Matrix won out and I think it was a better choice for them. Personally, I was absolutely against the value of fun at Redken, and was happy to relinquish it. I felt that “fun” was too lightweight for what we were about.

Define your fun

As I wrote in my post on friendships, enjoyment is a fine — even necessary — characteristic in one’s relationship; but it’s shallow and shouldn’t be the only basis. It’s like being funny. I love to laugh, but life is more than a laugh. A friendship based on a shared sense of humor is lightweight, and can easily be derailed. I believe this is much like the value of fun for a brand. Then again, as with any word, it depends on what you put behind the word. I have had many discussions over the years with friends about the words of happiness (hat tip to Matt Phelan at the Happiness Index) and joy (hat tip to the Agent of Change and principal at JoyTech, Rod Banner). If you’re going to use ‘fun’ as a brand value, the key point is to define what you mean. If, by having fun, we are talking about pulling through as a team during gruelling hours on a difficult project or pleasing a tough-as-nails client, then sure, let’s have fun. If, in ‘fun’ you mean knowing how to make fun of yourself (e.g. self-deprecation), that’s fine by me too.

When I observe spaces at work replete with table football (foosball), table tennis and on-tap sweets, sodas and beer, it’s a perhaps an enticing sight. But it certainly won’t be enough to garner long-term engagement. If the culture and purpose of your organization require such gimmicks to keep the employees motivated, then I’d tend to short that stock.

Your thoughts?

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