This June I was honored to receive the Phillip Kotler Social Marketing Distinguished Service Award, “The Kotler Glass,” at the Social Marketing Conference in Clearwater Beach, FL. In his presentation of the award, Dr. Kotler noted that “[Craig] is known for many things; a prolific writer, a creative architect of programs, an innovator and risk taker, and an outspoken and long-time guiding force in our field…In fact, if one word could be used to describe him, catalyst is the perfect one. He is that agent that provokes significant change… For those who know him, he is a brilliant and courageous innovator that has provided the field with enough insight to last the rest of us for a lifetime.”

After receiving The Kotler Glass I took the opportunity to talk about happiness and well-being. The video of the talk was just completed (thanks to Eric Weaver!) and is embedded below [or use that last link].


I started with where I left off in my book, Social Marketing and Social Change, suggesting several opportunities for the future of social marketing. One of them concerned happiness or well-being.

How the deliberate use of social marketing could lead to positive change in personal subjective well being and national happiness indicators through increasing perceived and actual freedoms and tolerance is an area ripe for exploration; it could invite the discipline into global policy discussions and debates—and one could rightfully inquire, Are we back to asking, “can we sell brotherhood like soap?” (Wiebe, 1951). Perhaps. But now we have the benefit of sixty more years of experience to draw upon (p. 498).

Bhutan has recognized the supremacy of national happiness over national income since the early 1970s.  It has famously adopted the goal of gross national happiness over gross national product (GNP).  Such thinking is now gaining traction in other regions.

Costa Rica is well-known for being the greenest country in the world — an example of holistic and environmentally responsible development.  Compared to other countries with similar income levels, it ranks higher in human development and is a beacon of peace and democracy.  In the United Kingdom, statistical authorities are experimenting with National Well-being. The European Commission has its GDP and Beyond project. One of the overarching targets of the European Health 2020 policy is how to set targets for well-being. Quality of Life and Well-Being are foundational health measures of Healthy People 2020.

And the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has issued guidelines for the measurement of well-being. Their definition of subjective well-being includes three elements:

● Life evaluation – a reflective assessment on a person’s life or some specific aspect of it.

● Affect – a person’s feelings or emotional states, typically measured with reference to a particular point in time.

● Eudaimonia – a sense of meaning and purpose in life, or good psychological functioning (you can also take a look at the OECD Better Life Index).

Also noteworthy is that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed and validated a well-being index. Happiness and well-being are becoming mainstream topics in public policy, economic and, yes, public health circles. It is time for social marketing to be at that table.

A few months ago the International Day of Happiness came onto my radar screen. It is an international observance brought into being by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. The resolution in its entirety reads:

Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on 28 June 2012

Recalling its resolution 65/309 of 19 July 2011, which invites Member States to pursue the elaboration of additional measures that better capture the importance of the pursuit of happiness and well-being in development with a view to guiding their public policies,

Conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal,

Recognizing the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives,

Recognizing also the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples,

Decides to proclaim 20 March the International Day of Happiness

Concomitant with this action, two World Happiness Reports have been issued. The 2013 report states that “Happiness is an aspiration of every human being, and can also be a measure of social progress.”

In a review of the research on the topic from around the world, the authors conclude that six key variables explain three-quarters of the variation in annual national happiness or well-being average scores over time and among over 150 countries. These six factors include: real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity.

“In conclusion, there is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their lives.”

Many cities and other organizations created videos for the International Day of Happiness in 2014, all of them using the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams as the soundtrack. One of my favorites is from Paris (over 2.6 million views when I posted this), though it was a little long for the conference. There are hundreds of these videos on YouTube to choose from. I chose one from Tel Aviv. The version that appears in the video is produced by students at the University of South Florida. Since they labored to edit and put the video together, and I am on the faculty there, why not? The idea is the same – user generated content around a social object.

At the end of the video I called for social marketing to take a lead role in taking International Day of Happiness to a new level. It’s time we showed the world that marketing can, indeed, be used to improve people’s well-being (or happiness) and make the world a better place.

Stay tuned for more… and let me know how you can help make this happen in your corner of the universe.


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