Ahead of the Curve: The Joy Imperative

Ahead of the Curve: The Joy Imperative.

The Ahead of the Curve series highlights five emerging social trends that may impact our audiences and, therefore, our outreach and engagement efforts.

I believe it’s vital to understand the larger social forces influencing our audiences so we can proactively adapt our outreach approaches accordingly instead of reactively jumping on the bandwagon.


Before we jump into today’s topic, it’s essential to understand the catalysts and drivers behind the emergence and growth of these trends (i.e., knowing the WHY behind the WHAT).

In this case, it means delivering the bad news before the good. And the bad news is that people aren’t feeling great these days.

According to IPSOS’ Global Advisor Predictions, people expect prices to increase, the economy to worsen, and weather events to get more extreme in 2023.

Overall, optimism among survey respondents that 2023 will be a better year than 2022 fell from 77% in 2022 to 65% for 2023 and is at a 10-year low.

Could the high optimism in 2012 be because Goyte’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” was the number one song on Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 chart??? You can be the judge of that.


Indeed, daily news and events surrounding us contribute to this dip in optimism, as does the lingering effects of COVID-19. The pandemic may have lightened, but the experience and toll still weigh heavily upon us.

“According to the World Health Organization, the pandemic triggered a 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide.” » Wunderman Thompson’s The Future 100

Compounding these feelings is the growing lack of trust that institutions and governments will take the proper steps to improve things.

Global societies are feeling frustrated, burnt out, and fed up. As a result, we increasingly seek moments of joy and escapism, connections to nature, and opportunities to fight for what’s right.

We are diving into each of these emerging needs in this email series, starting with…


Moving forward, more people will ditch the doom scrolling and seek joy as an antidote to anxiety and burnout.

Here are three ways our audiences find moments of joy and how early adopter brands are meeting this need.

1. Happy Distractions

“88% of people say that they are looking for new experiences to make them smile and laugh.” » Dentsu Creative Trends 2023

Have you heard of Pickleball? It is a simple, playful, and silly game that is a mash-up of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. It is also the fastest-growing sport in the world!!!

If Pickleball isn’t your thing, then maybe the Joy Workout is.

Created by a psychologist, “the exercises—bounce, reach, sway, shake, jump for joy, and “celebrate,” which mimics tossing confetti—are selected from studies on movements that elicit positive emotions.” » Wunderman Thompson’s The Future 100

You can click on the below image to try it out.

For those moments when we need a dose of joy but can’t squeeze in a game of Pickleball, NPR’s Joy Generator has us covered. It serves up a random selection of videos, songs, prompts, and activities to create smiles and warm feelings.

2. Laughter

“Laughter is a sign of safety and connection, but people aren’t doing it as much these days. The move to virtual communication since COVID-19 hasn’t helped; the lack of non-verbal cues and the stilted nature of ‘you go, I go’ on video calls has hindered our ability to connect. But people want to laugh, together. It’s why we have laughter workshops and laughter yoga.” » Wavemaker U.K.

In the past few years, it has sometimes felt like laughter isn’t appropriate. How can we laugh when there are so many bad things happening? Yet it’s a critical technique for releasing pent-up emotions and experiencing a bit of relaxation and joy.

Infusing humor into messages is a way to help audiences experience a moment of joy, and as this study shows, we’re not using this method frequently enough. Admittedly, it’s not easy to do, especially when tackling the difficult (and urgent, and kinda depressing) topics we work on.

I shared this article in the March Reader’s Digest on using humor in climate change communications, which can serve as a helpful guide for your efforts.

But check out these social media accounts of folks doing it really dang well. Shout out to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

3. Feel Good Feeds

“Consumers are looking for positive modes of engagement and emotional support online. Emerging social media platforms are tapping into user desires for change, reformulating feeds around positivity and uplift.” » Wunderman Thompson’s The Future 100

In addition to seeking distractions and laughter, people are looking for positive and real stories that refill their wells of optimism and hope. It’s hard to feel motivated to take action when things feel hopeless, so it makes sense that we’re looking for that light at the end of the tunnel that we can move toward.

Intersectional Environmentalist meets this need with a podcast series called The Joy Report. The Joy Report podcast is dedicated to sharing stories about climate solutions and environmental justice grounded in intersectionality, optimism, and joy.

This podcast doesn’t shy away from the realities, which can often be negative. Yet, it always dedicates at least half the podcast to covering solutions, innovators, and leaders creating positive change.

Staying ahead of the curve

Experiencing moments of joy is a growing need among our audiences. So, consider how your programs and organizations can provide or create moments of joy in a way that remains aligned with your mission.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Share positive news: Sharing positive news and uplifting stories will draw more audience members to your content and help them stay engaged. As the Joy Report demonstrates, we can talk about the realities of the issue AND generate optimism that change is possible.

Showcase your personality: Injecting personality into your messages can make your brand more human and relatable. Share behind-the-scenes glimpses of your team or company culture, or highlight the unique quirks and characteristics that make your brand stand out. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s social media posts is an excellent example of this.

Host a fun event: Now is the time to review your outreach and event schedule for the year to explore how to make them more fun for your audiences. Appealing to other interests your audience enjoys can open the door to deeper engagement.

Ask for audience participation: You can ask your audience to share their favorite jokes, memes, or uplifting stories related to your mission that gets shared with others. Contests or giveaways can also be a fun way to engage your audience and create moments of joy.

Creating moments of joy requires creativity, empathy, and a willingness to experiment and try new things.

By understanding our audiences and tailoring content to their interests and preferences, we can create meaningful and memorable moments of joy that build stronger connections with the audience and spark greater motivation to take action.

I hope you enjoyed the first Ahead of the Curve series post.

→ Next up is The Great Outdoors.


ICYMI, I wrote previously about infusing more fun into our messages here.