Happiness research: The Marco Polo effect

It was happiness research that sparked the creation of Marco Polo because it showed us that close relationships are a key to happiness. It was happiness research that gave us our purpose – helping people feel close. And it is happiness research that will ensure we stay true to that purpose every day of our existence. 

Staying true to that purpose is what drives us. So we continually ask big questions. How does our technology impact the people who use it? Is the experience of using Marco Polo true to our commitment to build technology that considers our well being? Answering those questions, and responding to our community’s needs based on what we learn, are fundamental to who we are as a company. 

So for 14 days last winter, we asked 100 people to trade Marco Polo for all other forms of digital communication. Then we asked them how they felt. 

The short answer was that using Marco Polo helped people feel closer and happier. It’s a finding as galvanizing as it is gratifying. 

Deeper exploration of the happiness study

This independent study was built on a smaller study conducted in 2020. This time, curious about whether the original results would hold up with a bigger sampling, we followed along as 100 participants, pairs who were not romantic partners, used Marco Polo to communicate with each other for two weeks. 


Study results show that Marco Polo helped 90 percent of participants feel closer to people they connected with


Where do we go from here?

Learning that Marco Polo has a positive effect on people’s lives isn’t cause to rest on our laurels. It’s a benchmark, a reminder, as we evolve and innovate, of the importance of continually checking in with our community and responding to what they value about Marco Polo and what they need from the app. 

And, we’re committing to repeating this study regularly as studies like this help us understand how we continue to deliver on our purpose to our community.

18 thoughts on “Happiness research: The Marco Polo effect

  1. There are 20 family members in our group from all over the US and one family in Canada. Marco Polo is the BEST way we have found to stay close.

    1. Hi Anita – we’re so happy to hear that Marco Polo is helping you and your family stay close – that is exactly our purpose. Thank you for sharing with us!

  2. With children and grandchildren on both East and West coasts, we use Marco Polo frequently, keeping all of us up to date on what’s happening. We enjoy it thoroughly. Nothing like a grandchild’s smile and news to lift our spirits.

  3. Hi,

    Part of my “Maximal Connection” work is going to be using Marco Polo to the place where people practice having certain kinds of interactions (low to mid self-discolsures, creative question asking, validation, etc.,), and I very much look forward to see how it plays out. While this research is not surprising, it is so great that you are doing it and letting us know! Thanks. — Jeff

  4. I really appreciate Marco Polo and the team behind it. I can attest to feeling closer in my relationships from using it!

    But also as a skeptical person I would love to see a full write up of the study, the methodology and sampling, etc.. Were you able to design a control group? I’d be concerned that the effect in the study is due to something more general – like using video in general vs text-based messaging. (It would also be interesting to test the inverse: do participants feel less happy/connected when not using MP after having used it)

    In my opinion, what’s specifically interesting about MP is that it’s asynchronous, which seems like an interesting area to focus a study on: one set of users (the control) using strictly real-time video chat like Zoom or whatever, and then the test group strictly using MP. My hunch is that MP users would find more opportunities to share cute little details in their lives (eg “look at this bird!”, “look at the food I made!”, “Your nephew is walking!”), whereas real time video users would experience less spontaneous interactions (and fewer interactions in general because of scheduling etc).

  5. I think I figured out some of my questions – I found the link to the 2020 study write up. I imagine the expanded study is the same methodology(?) I’d still be curious to see the full details!

    It is great to see validation for how MP has a positive effect on relationships. But again, would love to see methodologies focus on specific mechanisms in fostering relationships rather than overall app satisfaction.

    I think asking the tough questions might be less validating, but could help MP continue to be an ambassador in humane tech.

    1. Ash, yes, the methodology for the more recent study was very similar, with an expanded number. Thank you for this great feedback!

  6. I am one of 6 elder first cousins who connect on Zoom, monthly. Though the issue has improved over time, we still spend too much of our limited access to each other to trying ti resolve individual users’ technical problems that rob us of valuable relationship time. Would MP be easier in this respect?

    1. Hi Mary — Your monthly “cousin connection” sounds so lovely. And – having to act as impromptu tech support for each other really doesn’t sound like the most fun way to spend your precious time together 🤣 Without knowing the details of the issues you’re encountering during live meetings, what we can tell you is that Marco Polo works great for groups, you don’t have to be live to get meaningful face-to-face connection, and recording and sending a Polo to everyone is a simple matter of tapping Start and Stop. Here’s an article about how to download Marco Polo and get started with the app, which is free:
      Good luck and have fun!

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