On brands being kind

by Rishi Dastidar, Head of Verbal Identity

You might not have noticed it in amongst all the snark, despair and general woe that appears to make up most of social media these days, but the 13th November was actually World Kindness Day, or #worldkindnessday as we should more accurately describe it.

Skating over the fact that a Monday might perhaps be the hardest point in the week on which to be kind, the day was the initiative of a New York based non-profit organisation, Kindness.org, whose mission is "to reach across oceans and time zones to inspire small ripples of everyday compassion".

An admirable goal no doubt, but one that appeared to inspire individuals more than brands, at least according to my unscientific search on Twitter – unless you count a few giveaways of product as 'kind'.

It did start me thinking though, and specifically about whether 'kindness' is a thing we think enough about as brand builders – and whether we should, certainly a lot more than some 'random acts of kindness' that don’t often amount to much more than a voucher or a cheap gift.

As practioners we're much more likely to ask of brand owners and organisations what kind of brand do you want to be? rather than how does your brand promote kindness, help people to be kind, make the world a kinder place?

And being kind is different from doing good, I think. This latter assumption is what underscores a lot of thinking and the conversation we've all been having about the purpose that a brand might have.

I think there is a difference between a brand being kind and a brand doing good. If we say kindness is "the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate" then you start to see that there is a space in which a brand can behave in precisely that way to its customers that is, dare we say it, easier to achieve than a lot of the "change the world for better" rhetoric that gets mistaken for a brand's true purpose.

Of course we know that there are certain brands that are better at behaving with kindness than others, and often you'll find them outside of beauty, healthcare – the sectors where you might consider kindness to be an obvious virtue. For example you can be kind to your body with what you put into it as well as how you clean it and fix it.

Perhaps what we need is an index of brand kindness, an inventory, a ranking of the ways – and a way of rewarding – those brands which are more considerate to their customers and not just the wider world; where interactions are not just driven by inflexible automation and unthinking processes, and 'customer service' is not seen as just a cost centre.

I hope that kindness is a quality that can become more explicit for brands, that they work harder to be kind or deliver kindness. It might be too big a promise to make and keep. But I kinda hope more brands try.

Photo Credit: Alex Holyoake