Relax, it is finally official. Money CAN NOT buy happiness.
The blissful news arrived in a ruling handed down against WalMart in early 2008 by Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. in Atlanta.
The learned adjudicator found that even with the support of two hundred thousand dollars worth of pseudo scientific arguments from an actual smiley face consultant (similar to an elf translator), the retail behemoth could not claim ownership rights to the ubiquitous happy face.
Whew! Chock one up for The courageous Judge B senior and all mankind …
Mutual Life, Harvey Ball and Yellow Circles Off The Hook
No doubt about it, the smiley face is a formidable force to be reckoned with.
Little wonder WalMart tried to own it.
Like all religious icons, the happy face’s origin is a bit fuzzy but most bets favor the fable that modern day smiley was cesarean sectioned by a mild mannered and humble dude named Harvey Ball.
And similar to many iconic creators before him, Harvey attracted a benefactor who commissioned his purposefully emotive work and in this instance it was the very forward thinking Mutual Life Assurance Company. They were seeking a simple graphic to remind company phone reps to smile when they talked with potential clients and for that thinking we are greatly indebted to you, Mutual. Thank you!
Thanks also to Mr. Ball’s genius and flat out generosity, millions of happy faces will ride emails around the globe today and the totality of those “smile reminders ” will be generating the very same force that WalMart would love to manage.
Simple Signs Send a Signal
Incredible power is wielded by images like the Nazi swastika, a symbol representing such evil for some folks today that recent history overrides its beneficial application for hundreds of years before Hitler and the boys claimed it. Of course, being even more cunning than WalMart, the nasty Nazis chose the swastika to represent their group for the very reason that it already contained substantial religious power for them to employ.
Symbols have great influence on our society in all walks of life. See if you agree that awesome power resides in these cultural cues:
- By The Left, Quick, March! – Flags of Nations are simple, enduring symbols of unity and uniqueness which have rallied more cries for improving the human condition than any other symbol. The innate power in these cloth icons is so great that just disrespecting them has caused much conflict costing many lives.
- Winners IF Only For One Day - Sports Teams logos create loyalty, excitement, shame and devastation. The degree to which fanatical fans follow their teams through emulation in clothing, flags, culture and winning / losing is interesting indeed.
- One Finger Bad, Two Fingers Brotherhood – Hand signals and slight physical gestures convey instant disdain or peace and harmony to total strangers. Be careful which fingers you display …
- Just Say No and Just Do It - Ideological phrases and anthems represent struggles and cultural philosophies that, like brands and logos, eventually develop loyalty, class distinction and societal values which are unquestioningly enacted by each participant.
- Trade Colored Paper For Stuff – Currency is a powerful symbol of value which requires total acceptance of a positive perception of national economies. Kinda like walking on a cliff edge blindfolded.
Even criminal organizations see value in controlling their symbols and logos. In the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club, for example, not dropping colors or patches as requested will lead to paralysis and quite likely death for the ex-member given to challenging any zero tolerance cultural icons.
Smiley Face Packs A Punch
Humans think in pictures and evidence abounds that our lives are directed by the images of brands, logos and symbols.
I think it stands to reason that if one of the most successful companies in the world considered corralling the power of the smiley face, we should definitely be paying cultural icons more attention.
And now that we know that our main symbol of happiness can not be sold, it is imperative we put that gelded graphic to work freely, everywhere.
Thank you, friend.
PS. I have told you little about this great icon called Smiley Face. You can learn more about this important topic by clicking on the links below.
The Lowdown on Smiley Face History from The Straight Dope
Another story I wrote about having fun at work: http://barry-williams.com/blog/stp-smile-transfer-protocol-original-application-yqr-regina-airport-authority/