Great Marketing Comes With A Smile

The following is also my latest MediaPost Spin column.

Great Marketing Comes With A Smile

February 15th, 2008 by Max Kalehoff

We all know the difference between interactions where someone smiles versus when someone does not. When people smile, the experience more often than not is pleasant, if not enjoyable. In circumstances where people don’t smile, the experience is often negative or forgettable. Smiling is one of the most powerful methods of conveying thoughts, moods, feelings and emotions. Which begs the question: If smiling is so influential, why isn’t it recognized as a fundamental value in every aspect of business and marketing?

There are a number of specific reasons why we should smile. Consider acceptance, a basic human need, and prominent on psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Well, a smile is one of the best ways to make others feel accepted! Why wouldn’t any business mandate all of its employees to connect with stakeholders with a smile to fulfill this basic desire?

Then there’s confidence. Smiling exudes confidence – both within yourself and in the perception others have of you. If you smile while performing a task, you tend to appear in command of the situation. Smiling even makes tasks look easy and enjoyable, suggesting mastery of your subject.

Then there’s accessibility, which smiling fosters. Smiling counters feelings of anxiety and intimidation in others and instills a sense of calm. It helps break down social barriers between people and enables them to share in empathy, sometimes without even realizing it. A genuine smile is detectible and instills trust.

Smiling also makes you look more attractive – and there’s real evidence here. According to a recent study at the University of Aberdeen, when subjects were rating faces for attractiveness, the preference for being gazed at directly by smiling eyes was much greater for faces of the opposite sex, especially when they were rated by men. There was no such sexual bias in the preference for a direct gaze when the students rated disgusted-looking faces, or when they were rating any faces for likeability. You’d think in an image-obsessed culture, more people would smile more!

Finally, happiness is a byproduct of smiling. That explains why it’s a popular technique among mental health therapists working with depressed patients. To smile is to be human and healthy.

Now back to my original question: If smiling is so powerful, why isn’t it recognized as a fundamental value in every aspect of business and marketing? Smiling should start with employees, but the essence of smiling should extend to every aspect of brand experience. Does your logo embody the spirit and effects of smiling? How about your commercial messages or direct customer communications? How about the very product you offer customers? Does it come with a smile?

The presence of a smile absolutely glows – while the absence of one lingers painfully. For smiling brands, consider JetBlue, Flickr or Google. They exude happiness and many other byproducts of smiling, which I mentioned above. For non-smiling brands, consider your cable company (in my case, Cablevision), your mobile phone provider (in my case, Sprint) or most any American airline other than JetBlue. Those brands are suffering from the absence of a genuine smile.

To be a great marketer and great brand, you must smile.

Does your brand smile?

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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