Mission: Spread Joy 5

The Bend Joy Project

If you shopped or dined in Bend last winter, chances are you saw and felt the effects of the Bend JOY Project. The bright orange banners, set against the record-shattering piles of snow, and the preponderance of kind actions were dead giveaways. 
Noelle Fredland, Marketing Director for the Old Mill District in Bend, was the bold visionary and Bill Smith, President of William Smith Properties—the management company for the Old Mill District—was the boss who ok’d the project. 
“He (Smith) did wonder why there wasn’t a logo in there anywhere,” recalls Fredland. “Yet, as always for Bill, in the long run if it’s good for the community, it’s good for us.” 
And, while Bend was in the grips of a snow-covered Winter of 2016, signs of joy and encouragement to spread joy were certain to be good for the community.

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

The idea began as an antidote to the constant messaging we—especially women— receive on how we are only a purchase away from being a better, prettier, happier, smarter, or healthier version of ourselves. The project—with an epicenter in the middle of Bend’s slice of retail heaven alongside the Deschutes River—was designed around a series of positive messages with absolutely zero commercial intent.
The creative team for the Bend JOY Project includes Fredland, Dyan Roth, Becky Boyd, Marie Melsheimer, Judy Campbell, Brenda Komar, Lynnette Braillard, and Cassondra Spring Schindler. Together they created a “mascot” they named OBE (short for Oh Be Joyful), crafted 50 different positive messaging suggestions for use on Share Cards, posters and banners, produced a video and a website, offered a consistent social media presence, and coordinated with over 200 participating businesses throughout Bend to spread the word.
Soon, 50,000 Share Cards made their way into the hands of community members and visitors. Banners were up in the Old Mill District, Northwest Crossing and downtown. The sunny orange theme color and OBE were all over the place. 
Messaging suggested such actions as, “Give a store, a business, a server positive feedback,” “Give yourself permission to try something new,” and “Give this card to someone you admire, and share why.”
Joy began to spread, in a big way.
“Therapist friends left the cards in bowls in their offices,” notes Roth. 
“The one that says, ‘Be a friendly driver all day’ is still in my car,” says Braillard.
“The Parent Teacher Organization at school gave a flower and a Share Card to parents who were picking up their kids one day,” adds Komar.
For these women, a great deal of the project’s joy came from the anonymity, and the goal was a more positive community.
“As a marketing professional, it was really counterintuitive to not have the project be branded. It was so much fun to see it grow and know we were behind it quietly,” said Komar.
Melsheimer also found herself employing a very different approach to public relations. As word got out she had to go against her instincts.
“Initially, we didn’t directly set press interviews with anyone from the Old Mill District,” says Melsheimer. “We’d send reporters to interview partnering organizations.”
Fredland still seems in awe of the way the project evolved before and after the rollout. There were delays and messaging concerns. And yet, the response was phenomenal.
Even the boss got into the spirit of it. 
“I started getting regular Joy stories from Bill on email,” says Fredland. “They’d start with, ‘So, because of Joy…’”
While we shouldn’t need a card to tell us to be joyful, especially around the holidays, a simple reminder can change someone’s day. What will this holiday season have in store for Central Oregonians? The Bend JOY Project isn’t saying, but, let’s hope it’s filled with joy.