Employing WorkPlace Humor – Why Is The Smiley Face So Important To WalMart?


happy face sign at barneys motel, brandon, manitoba, canada
Any Idea If This Is A Friendly Motel?

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.

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 πŸ˜‰ ” 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.

swastika is borrowed from history
Power Resides In Symbols, Not Political Parties

Symbols have great influence on our society in all walks of life. See if you agree that awesome power resides in these cultural cues:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. One Finger Bad, Two Fingers BrotherhoodHand signals and slight physical gestures convey instant disdain or peace and harmony to total strangers. Be careful which fingers you display …
  4. 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.
  5. Trade Colored Paper For StuffCurrency 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 zero tolerance for cultural icon control.

flags of several different countries
Yeah, Some Lines And A Triangle Works

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.

πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Thank you, friend.

Barry out.

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.



WalMart Loses Court Case For Smiley Ownership

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/

18 Responses to “Employing WorkPlace Humor – Why Is The Smiley Face So Important To WalMart?”

  1. Very interesting as always Barry, you’re right about humans thinking in pictures. Visual images are also the most powerful memories (apart from smell). πŸ™‚

    I remember going on holiday to Malaysia and seeing a powerful visual image. Hundreds of Buddhas in a row all with “Swastikas” on them – that was a REALLY weird experience. πŸ˜‰

    Looking forward to your next post.



  2. My Good Sir,

    Hundreds of Buddas outfitted with swastikas would be an interesting experience and likely very confusing for anyone familiar with the Nazis.

    The majority of folks have no idea how closely history repeats itself but you and I know there is little new under the sun when it comes to human interaction.

    Thanks very much for your comments John, you are getting me trained to look for them as soon as a new story is published.

    Have a grand day, buddy.



  3. Hi Barry,
    I have to hand it to you friend you do write very interesting posts.
    You are so right humans do think in pictures. Our lives really are directed by brands and logo’s, I think one of the most powerful modern one’s is of that big yellow ‘M’ seen everywhere across the planet!



    Barry Williams Reply:

    Howdy Ray.

    Your words mean more than you know because to hear you say that my posts are interesting is exactly the payment I am seeking for the 8 – 20 hrs that each of these posts takes me to write. You and I both know how hard it is to attract attention these days…

    I am pouring every bit of talent I have into these posts and some of the topics on my blog I have thought about all my life and am so happy to have the opportunity to share them with other “interested” folks.

    You are an aware dude, Ray and I enjoy reading your blog as well.

    Thanks very much for your comment.

    Later, pal.



  4. Hi Barry

    Whilst I’m with you that money can’t buy you happiness, I’m sure that we could still have plenty of fun finding that out.

    Your right again, no one has the right to own the smiley face, surely it’s one of the few pleasures that we can all afford.

    Good post!

    Best, Theresa


    Barry Williams Reply:

    Thank you madam and yes, I agree with you that experiencing the disappointment of money not being able to buy happiness would be the best kind of disappointment to endure.

    Armed with this financial wisdom, a person could then move on to step two of the dough experiment and see if cash could buy SOMEONE ELSE happiness. Still, I’m quite certain that our children, friends and total strangers would be oh, so very upset for receiving all that loot from us. 😎

    Alright, lets change the rule to: Money can’t buy happiness FOREVER. (and uh, even that only works for some folks…)

    Thank you for commenting, Theresa. Please enjoy a grand day today.


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    Barry Williams Reply:

    Hey and uh, I salute you, too. Took a quick peek at your site and unless this is just spam that I am desperately counting as a comment, someone could get hurt over there!



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    You’re uh, not. Are you?


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    I wouldn’t argue with you friend on account of you’re right.


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    I know I’m overpaying for a lot of these stories but for gawd’s sake, the girl is fourteen years old and may already have a drinking problem…give her a break!


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