WORKPLACE / MAR. 12, 2014
version 5, draft 5

The Business of Having Fun

I like to have fun. Chances are you like to have fun, too.

We associate fun with activities like playing, being around family and friends, and generally doing what we want to do. Fun, typically, doesn’t mean going to work or the grocery store.

More than ever, though, corporate America is trying to create an intersection between those regular things we have to do and FUN, something we all generally like to have. 

I'm not talking about video games, pro sports, TV media or other inherently fun sectors. What's growing is the everyday use of fun in companies that are traditionally neutral or historically boring when it comes to having a good ol' time. Fun is being commoditized; it is being injected into mission statements and corporate value systems; and it is being leveraged as a benefit and employee perk. 

Here are four major ways companies are doing this:

  1. Injecting fun into their mission statements and values to create a fun commercial atmosphere

Which Wich: A fast-food restaurant chain with 256 locations in 37 states, known for its signature fun ordering system where guests mark their sandwich order on paper bags, and doodle their artwork to leave on the community wall. Which Wich staff contribute to the vibe of the store to create an overall positive, fun, energy, illustrated by the “vibe” icons on the wall.

Trader Joe’s: Your self-proclaimed “neighborhood grocery store”, Trader Joe’s uniforms employees in Hawaiian t-shirt and tells customers grocery shopping should be fun, not just another chore!

  1. Creatively adapting regular products and services to make them unique and fun!

FRED & Friends: This fun-factory sells everyday products like oven mitts and door stoppers that it claims should be “fun to own”. Who knew ice trays or tea cups could be so fun? These products are marketed as trendy and creative, and contribute to the growing niche market of regular products adapted to be tremendously more fun.

Pizza Hut: Pizza is inherently fun, correct? Obviously. However, Pizza Hut is taking fun to the next level by creating a fun-to-use pizza ordering game system! Doesn’t that sound fun? Customers will be able to customize their order on the table touch screen, pay their bill and even play games.

  1. Advertising serious or everyday items in a fun or funny way

Old Spice: Because deodorant and other bath products for men aren’t that fun, the people at Old Spice created the Old Spice guy, officially known as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”. This series of TV commercials gained instant popularity because of its fun take on selling a regular product. This campaign generated over 100 million views on YouTube alone and has had a significant impact in Old Spice’s status as the leading brand in men’s body wash and deodorant. 

Pepto-Bismol: We all know there's nothing fun about diarrhea. Yet, the booty-shaking, indigestion-free customers featured in P-B's commercials show the fun side of surviving an upset stomach episode. Even something as un-fun as the runs can work in this advertising scheme. 

  1. Fostering a fun work environment to promote overall employee happiness

Google: Just one of many companies that makes employee fun an utmost priority. Google believes their fun workspaces “have a positive impact on productivity, collaboration and inspiration.”

Discovery: This nonfiction media company (TLC, Animal Planet, etc.) boasts a fun workspace for employees featuring events and opportunities to take fun and interesting lessons (African dance, chocolate-making, and more fun activities!). 

Kiva: A non-profit online platform that connects lenders to (mostly developing world) entrepreneurs, Kiva creates fun in its offices by replicating the most fun part of elementary school: RECESS. Yes, employees get recess everyday to mess around, play and eat in a fun, sociable environment. Also, your dog is welcome at work every day – how fun is that! 

While FUN may be at the forefront of so many more mission statements, marketing ploys, and product lines, does that actually mean society as a whole is having more fun? What do you think?

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