New Year happened a while back. But, what the hell! Here's wishing everyone a Happy New Day! Why? Well, simply because that seems to be the new mantra echoing across the culture.
Sample this - Nokia, the telecom major on the wane, is making an attempt to resurrect itself by celebrating 'the amazing everyday'. McDonald's, in its turn, aims to bait the bored-with-tiffin working class through its Value McLunch that promises fun every day. It may have been precociously heralded a few years ago by the clarion call of the cult film, 3 Idiots - "aal iz well!"
What could be the reason behind this new phenomenon of seeking happiness just like that, every day, as against working towards it as a goal? How come it is suddenly getting delinked from social and professional success, and material possessions?
Well, the obvious answer could lie in the taming of the economic ambition. Thanks to the extended downturn, we seem to be moving into a phase where we feel comfortable with less. Frankly, the society is left with no choice on this count. Since it can't chase big success anymore, it has to reconcile, slow down and enjoy whatever it has.
Then, there is saturation with the dark shades of gloom. Years have gone by living under the fear of uncertainty. People want to be positive now, no matter what. The only way to get out of depression seems to be a conscious choice of optimism as a way of everyday living.
Not surprising, then, that the emerging motivations for brands are in the area of feeling more alive, living more fully, brightly and happily. Godrej as a master brand echoes the feeling with its persistent advocacy of Brighter Living. The recent restage of brand Titan sees another nuance of the same idea - an optimistic exhortation to 'live the now' irrespective of anything.
Living positively is also an ultimate realisation that was somewhat romanticised, ironically, by two terminally ill writers - the authors of two of the landmark books of the recent times - The Last Lecture and Tuesdays with Morrie.
The spiritual maturity being advocated by the enlightened modern gurus is resonant, too. Swami Sukhbodhanand (the name, interestingly enough, means realising happiness!), during his sterling session at the Ad Asia Seminar held in Delhi, spoke about experiencing joy in everything one does, even as one blinks the eyes. The theme for the seminar wasn't any different. It focussed on not being cagey about uncertainty, and to rather embrace and celebrate it.
The search to experience more is evident not only in the ads or movies we see, the books we read and the events we attend, but also in the way we are beginning to eat. It is no longer about wolfing down grub but about relishing the authentic experience of eating. Food that allows true immersion of senses is emerging as more enjoyable. Whether it is the rituals of wine drinking or savouring the delights of genuine local cuisine, the trends are reflected in the foodie shows, food and travel books and behaviour shaping the new world culture. Food has clearly emerged as the new genre in today's programming.
Actually, the desire to experience more is a deeper trend. The shift is from coasting to nesting, and from running to slowing down, to simply experience more.
Looking back, it already feels wasteful to have invested an entire lifetime in juggling so many things at once. Doesn't it feel silly to have wasted one's youth in nothing but a competition to achieve that marginally incremental material and professional success, which matters precious little outside the narrowly-focused visions of myopic zombies? The hero of the future will clearly be the individual who takes the time to be really great at one thing, and relishes it.
So would the hurried race of today give way to labours of love - an age of gardening, DIY and taking courses to master what we really love to do? Aren't we seeing the revival of rituals for slowing down - tea and coffee lounges, manual devices over automatic ones, long walks, and popular easy and fun sports of yore like badminton, instead of gym workouts?
It's really about having less and feeling more - a simple philosophy that perhaps could only have been explained by a Mexican to an American. And, this is how it was told: A group of rich Americans took a vacation to a quaint Mexican island, where the homes were ordinary thatched huts and life was simple. They were welcoming though, and treated the Americans to the most amazing fish they had ever eaten.
"This fish is absolutely brilliant," gushed the American, "You could get top dollar for it back in the States."
"Yeah, ok," replied the local, "But I'm not too interested."
"Tell me, my man, how many boats do you have?"
"None. I catch the fish at the pier."
"Well, you should get yourself a boat. That way, you can catch more fish."
"You sell all the fish and make lots of money."
"Sounds interesting. What next?"
"You buy more boats. Then catch more fish. And make lots of money."
"Go on," said the local with a gleam in his eye. "What then?"
"Well then, my man, it gets really interesting because you can retire rich!"
"Oh ok... And what would I do then?"
"Nothing! That's the best part. You just retire to a beautiful island and laze around and fish all day."
"Well, what do you think I'm doing now?" asked the Mexican.
It may not be a bad time to ask a similar question to ourselves, too.
The author is chief strategist and head, Water (A part of the Interbrand Network).