Kindness has historically not been a term immediately associated with business. In fact, one might argue that such a soft word is counter-intuitive to winning, which (at least in the past several decades) has been the primary focus of corporate leadership and connected directly to things like delivering shareholder value, which is directly related to stock price, which is determined by dollar-driven bottom-line metrics like profitability.
It begs the question – at what point did we start placing monetary value before human values? At what point did conquering the competition becoming a stronger focus than connecting to customers? At what stage of the game did the evolution of brands and marketing start focusing on humans as ‘consumers’ and ‘targets’ and competing for ‘share of wallet’ and ‘share of stomach?’
Fortunately we have entered a new world of branding and marketing. A renaissance of sorts where we are witnessing the end of Gordon Gecko, ‘greed is good’ cola-wars driven business-growth. Product and service-oriented marketing and brand leaders are starting to understand that humans make purchases as people and not as pie charts. We buy with our hearts and heads and the new aspirational normal is not conspicuous consumption but rather making purchase decisions based on a more holistic consciousness of the meaning of our behavior.
Kindness has become a new kind of currency for winning the hearts and loyalty of customers. The cultural shift to a kindness-based economy has become more than apparent with the emergence and resounding success of ideals based brands (as evidenced in Jim Stengel’s book, Grow), The boom in companies
seeking B Corp certification and the deluge of big brands taking on big responsibilities toward making the world a better place, like Unilever and Project Sunlight.
But here’s the thing: it may be true that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown, but flexing our kindness muscles can be hard work. It means getting out from behind the trend reports and data-driven metrics, putting on your jeans and tennis shoes, rolling up your sleeves and digging in to the lives and context of people as human beings, not ‘consumers.’
What are the values that sustain them? What are the dreams that motivate their behavior? What do they love? How do they show love? The kind of respect it takes to spend time with people – observing and listening for what is important to them is a form of kindness that helps brands see the light. And choosing to focus strategic marketing parameters on the highest common denominator value systems (proactive, love-oriented motivations rather than reactive fear-oriented motivations) illuminates opportunities for growth that far exceed any data point in a forecasting model. Why? Because this choice to focus on the lighter side of human motivations and behaviors opens an opportunity to connect on a much deeper level; one that will sustain over time and change KPIs forever, adding the layer of love to traditional measures of awareness, familiarity, consideration and purchase.
It also demonstrates kindness to the people who spend their days working to build businesses – the managers and marketers that run the brands we interact with every day – by allowing them to bring their human side to work. Connecting with these types of higher order customer values allows these brand leaders to integrate their own loving voice into their work, bringing a higher level of empathy and truth to the pursuit of profits.
In short, it’s time to accept the love and allow the currency of kindness to be the foundation for business growth. It’s a guaranteed win for business as well as humanity.
Photo: Kyle Steed