Adding up the bottom-line benefits of the kindness equation

There are at least three reasons that kindness in today’s fast and extremely competitive business world can positively affect corporate health and profitability.

•Corporate health is a reflection of personal health. Dealing with stress and sickness is expensive, and dealing with conflict in the workplace is time-consuming.

•Kindness will create a positive corporate culture resulting in more productive teamwork.

•Kindness will create better long-term relationships with customers and all stakeholders.

Young & Rubicam research done several years ago showed that consumers increasingly value “kindness and empathy” (up 391%), “friendly” (148%) and “socially responsible” (63%) attributes of brands while devaluing “daring” and “arrogant.”

Jill Lublin, author of the new book The Profit of Kindness, claims that “kindness is the new currency” of the marketplace. It generates more customers and higher customer and employee loyalty, thus leading to increased revenue, cost savings and profit.

Finally, my own research on the return on investment of some of the most admired American companies done back in 2010 showed that profitability of a selected sample of 18 admired companies was almost twice as high compared with the average Fortune 500 company.

Kindness creates “wow,” and given the importance of the wow factor and word of mouth in today’s digital age, it can be a critical part of your marketing strategy. To be successful in the long term, however, kindness has to be authentic; it has to truly reflect your company’s culture and brand’s DNA.

Several small and large companies have already launched “random acts of kindness” campaigns.

One of the first was done by Dutch airline KLM. In November 2010, it ran an experimental “How Happiness Spreads” campaign, where it employed a “surprise team” to give passengers tailored, unexpected gifts at the airport.

Flower delivery service Interflora monitored Twitter accounts looking for users that needed cheering up. Once found, the users were contacted and sent a bouquet of flowers as a surprise.  

In line with its brand commitment to “doing the right thing” and having a “love for food and people,” Europe’s fast-casual Pret A Manger brand launched its random acts of kindness campaign by encouraging its employees to give free food and beverage items to customers of their choosing. 

Vinomofo, an Australian online wine retailer, encouraged people to nominate individuals or groups that were doing something awesome for their community, and the company would send them a Vinobomb box with six of its finest wines.

San Francisco-based Airbnb gave 100,000 of its customers around the world the equivalent of $10 in their own currency. The only condition was that they used it to perform a “unique act of kindness.”

Starbucks’ Tweet a Coffee campaign encouraged people to buy their friends a coffee using Twitter. The campaign resulted in $180,000 worth of purchases and 54,000 gained Twitter profiles and customer IDs.

Kindness doesn’t have to be random. It can be planned and carefully implemented.

First, look at your mission. What is your company’s purpose and how are you helping people’s lives?  Look at your brand. What do you mean to the world? How can kindness help you strengthen your brand identity?

Then look at your company’s internal and external policies. How can you improve your policies to ensure that you are treating your employees and customers better?

Involve your employees and get them to brainstorm and implement various ideas to delight their customers and provide a unique brand experience.

Finally, enjoy the journey!

Ivan Surjanovic is an educator and consultant specializing in business strategy in the digital age.