Constant positivity isn’t good marketing, it’s toxic marketing 

Copywriter and founder of Wordfetti, Anita Siek, looks at what may be hiding behind a constant front of brand happiness.

“Focus on the good things.” “Just stay positive.” “It could be worse.” 

We see it on social media. We hear it in the news. And with the pandemic and yo-yo of lockdowns it has no doubt been exacerbated because these phrases and words serve as an enveloped hug of support to help us see the world through a positive lens when things are tough. It feels harmless because it’s well intended. Except for the fact this constant positivity in our language could be doing more harm than good, and is actually unhelpful and toxic. 

Constant positivity is a ticking time bomb  

The danger of constant positivity across all situations (even when things are challenging) is that it bypasses the core of our human experience: emotions. 

Now don’t get me wrong, having a positive outlook on life is important to our mental health. But what’s not helpful is when we believe that life should always be “positive”. Because, let’s be real, it’s not. 

Painful emotions and experiences are part of the DNA of humanity. And while these moments are very uncomfortable, by only using phrases like “be positive”, “tough it out” or “you’ll be fine, just look for the silver lining” in our communications, this closes the opportunity door for us as humans to feel honestly and be curious about our feelings as we’re shutting down any feelings that aren’t positive. 

This doesn’t mean we’re being negative Nancies when it comes to marketing our business. But instead of brushing it off and aiming for a “positive vibes only” culture in marketing, brands should embrace a “show-up” culture in marketing. 

An honest marketing culture where we “show-up”, face challenges, and speak honestly about them instead of shoving it under the rug. This could include addressing how as a brand you may be navigating through tough or not so rosy moments, or speaking to emotions as humans first, businesses second with curiosity and heart without judgment. 

For example, check out exhibit A below.  

Credit: Who Gives a Crap @ Instagram

I love how Who Gives a Crap used their platform to speak openly and transparently about the uncertainty, fear, and the struggle the brand and their team experienced when it came to navigating around working remotely.  

With vulnerability comes connection, and this post not only generated over 7,400 likes and over 380 comments, becoming one of their most engaged posts, but it also provided an opportunity for the brand to be real and human about expectations in response times and address with heart, why there may be a minor delay in replies.  

This is a brand that has shown up in their marketing by embracing transparency, honesty and empathy messaging at its core.  

The best communications and content strategy is empathy  

Our world is enveloped with performers (you and I included) where sometimes, we can’t help but put on the same romanticised act that we “have it together”, when we don’t. 

This performance of “happy” is not only exhausting, but it’s inauthentic and unsustainable. It adds to our emotional labour, and can lead us to burn out. 

As brands, organisations and as leaders, it’s time we place empathy, transparency and being human at the core of our written communications. Because “happy vibes only” isn’t being empathetic. Nor is pretending, and making things seem like it’s always rainbows and unicorns when it’s not. 

What is empathetic is being real. And being real is about humanising our communications internally and externally and being more transparent in the content we create.

Pandemic and beyond  

When it comes to communication and connection with one another, words are what connect us. From emails to text messages, marketing to internal communications, we all have a voice and a role to play in creating an empathetic and psychologically safe environment. 

Creating a safe space isn’t about offering a solution. It’s about listening, not just talking, and it’s about authenticity over false cheeriness. 

So next time you write that caption for your brand or send out that company-wide email, don’t ask “what can I say to make this person feel better?”, ask “how can I help this person feel seen, heard and safe?”  

It’s time we take off the masks. It’s time we let go of seeing the world through only rose-tinted glasses. And it’s time we swap constant positivity with honesty.  

Because consumers today don’t want constant positivity and “happy”, we want empathy and “real”.   

Anita Siek is a copywriter and founder of Wordfetti.


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