Finding Hygge In Our Work

I’ve just returned from a week in Denmark. There, I learned about, and experienced, a Danish concept called “hygge.” Most pronunciation guides simplify the sound to hoo-ga. But it’s NOT like Chatta-NOOGA. I’d spell it phonetically as heueu-gae – where you breathe out the H, make more of an “ew” than an “oo” sound, and finish with a “gae” sound like the “ae” sound in “Michael.” In short, pronounce it like you’re pretending to be on an episode of The Californians.

Now, the definition of this word defies any simple English translation. The easiest is that cozy feeling you have when you’re curled up next to a fire on a snowy day, with a good book, your favorite beverage, and your loved ones nearby. It’s not just the aesthetic. It’s the feeling, the emotion, that comes at just that precise moment for you. That’s hygge.

It’s become quite the phenomenon, even making the short-list for Word Of The Year from Oxford Dictionaries in 2016. And now there are books, calendars, recipes, and even entire websites devoted to this concept.

But I think there’s something powerful here for our work with content.

A few weeks back I wrote to you all about how a myopic focus on “hustle,” the obsess-or-be-average idea was ultimately an exhausting and unproductive activity. I think there’s a corollary here.

As business content creators, it’s easy for us to fall into a pattern of continually creating content focused on breathless challenge, disruption, discomfort, fear, or doubt. After all, we’re looking to drive a reaction from our audience, and these are tried and true emotions that inspire action.

Occasionally, even just as an experiment, I wonder if we shouldn’t also create content that makes us feel a little hygge. This is the feeling I get when I read Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley, watched Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, or listened to a Vangelis record. Today, it’s the feeling I get whenever I watch Bob Ross paint his happy little trees (that show, by the way, is an amazing example of content marketing). I should also note that Bob Ross’ content has seen a huge resurgence in popularity over the last few years as younger people have discovered his particular brand of warmth and honesty.

I wonder if there really is a hunger for differentiated, hygge-inspired content out there?

On the closing day of a big event, you might find yourself cutting loose, having a few in a noisy bar, and burning off some energy on the dance floor. Last week, as I finished a long day of teaching a content marketing workshop in Denmark, I found myself in a cozy little wine bar in the center of Copenhagen. There were four of us, sequestered away in a little library nook on three big couches with big fluffy pillows. The fire was going on a slightly chilly, but not overly cold evening.

As I sipped my absinthe-infused scotch (which was amazing by the way), I said to the group, “This feeling, right here, is what I’d really love to be able to provide at an event.” The two Danes in the group smiled and said simply, “Yes, that’s hygge.”

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.