Homegrown: In advertising, gratitude is making a comeback
by Lynne Gordon (@lynne_gordon) Gratitude is making a comeback. More and more, we see a consumer quest for open sharing and generous collaboration as the solution to the challenges faced in our modern world. Society is relearning an appreciation of life, and those around it. And, if 2016 is set to be shaped by the resurgence of gratitude as a mainstream cultural force, South Africans should be set to lead the way.
Surviving and thriving on the tip of Africa, we have more than most to feel grateful for. As gratitude opens our minds and hearts, it creates new frontiers for brands to explore and express their purpose, building connections that enable a new appreciation of life and living.
A culture of gratitude
Gratitude is born of adversity. A global economic recession teaches us to be thankful for what we have, and challenges to the human race — from climate change to Ebola to the threat of global terrorism — encourage us to re-evaluate what really matters in life. A new generation born in challenging times is embracing a willingness to share, collaborate and be more generous. This willingness is rooted in a genuine belief that we are better together, and that sharing offers solutions to problems we face together.
Science tells us that gratitude makes us happier, more-fulfilled humans. Cultivating gratitude is linked to better health, less anxiety, higher long-term satisfaction with life, and enhanced relationships. This feel-good reinforcement of grateful behaviours amplifies the power of gratitude in culture, making appreciation a powerful force — and one that brands should mirror to retain or gain relevance in a changing world.
Gratitude opens new vistas for brands which can enable, express or capture this culture of appreciation. Small businesses do this intuitively: the barista who draws a smiley on a cup of coffee to make a customer’s day a little happier, and the local grocer who packs in a few extra sun-ripe tomatoes for a favourite customer. They seamlessly express gratitude to consumers and patrons but how may brands harness gratitude as part of doing business?
The behaviours of grateful brands
• Grateful brands are generous
Ben & Jerry’s celebrate Free Cone Day every 14 April, offering free cones (with no strings attached) as a way of saying “thank you” to ice-cream fans around the world. Mugg & Bean builds its brand on a premise of “giving more”: from bottomless coffee and generous portions to free wifi in all stores, the brand aims to express a true spirit of generosity in all touchpoints. And, online, generosity is an expectation — consumers expect content that’s shared freely, solutions and services may be trialled and used free of charge, and cost-of-business that becomes marginal with scale. Embracing generosity with added benefits and open sharing expresses a brand that’s grateful.
• Grateful brands appreciate loyalty and brand engagement
FNB has pioneered loyalty rewards that feel more rooted in genuine consumer appreciation, from eBucks to customer enablers to purchase tools, including iPads and generators. But appreciation is not only about rewards for purchase. Social media management provides an opportunity for brands to demonstrate appreciation of consumers’ engagement with fast responses and genuine acts of kindness.
Interflora UK pioneered “Twitter-ppreciation” in 2010 by sending a bunch of flowers to consumers bogged down with bad days. This laid the foundation for numerous brands that followed by using the immediacy of social media to reward and engage consumers with random acts of kindness.
Airbnb celebrated New Year 2015 with its #OneLessStranger campaign, giving away US$1m in US$10 increments to its customers. This came with an invitation to use the money to reach out to someone with an act of friendship or giving, and create new personal connections.
Vodacom created “Give A Happy” to enable gifting by its customers with small increments of airtime, data and SMS.
As consumers embrace thankfulness, brands that enable expressions of gratitude will play a meaningful role in their emotional engagement with the world.
• Grateful brands give back
Desiring to see their communities, families and country prosper, South Africans value brands that give back meaningfully.. But giving money to charity is not enough — consumers want brands to activate altruism with a genuine sense of investing expertise, skills and resources to make a sustainable difference.
Co-donating is a powerful force for brands, enabling consumers to add contributions or ideas to enhance traditional CSI efforts. KFC’s Add Hope makes a meaningful difference by feeding over 100 000 children every day, and also engages consumers to contribute by personally Adding Hope with their purchase.
Lessons for marketers
So, as we cross the threshold into a new year, marketers can look for ways to harness gratitude. An appreciation of consumers is never misplaced, and brands that express gratitude as a core value are more likely to succeed as the world relearns appreciation.
- Look for genuine ways to show appreciation for your brand fans. Loyalty programmes abound, but few crack the meaningful tokens of genuine appreciation that will most-impactfully nurture your current consumer base. Consider how you can create an appreciation programme to recognise their contribution to your business, not with points, but with gratitude for their participation in your brand vision.
- Be an enabler of giving to others. As consumers seek ways to reach out to express love and appreciation, brands that enable gestures of gratitude will play a role in a circle of giving.
- Acknowledge employees and suppliers. Find ways to publicly appreciate those who make your brand great. Consumers like to see the effort behind the products they buy, and appreciation builds warmth and humanity.
- Give back. Social investment that demonstrates appreciation will flourish ahead of aimless CSI that is seen as token-giving.
It’s with optimism and hope for a more-grateful world that we can harness giving for our brands and organisations. Here’s to a 2016 filled with gratitude!
Lynne Gordon (@lynne_gordon) is the managing director at strategic marketing consultancy Added Value. Read more about inspiring collaboration and other cultural trends for 2015 at www.culturalthemes.com.
Lynne learned marketing on-the-job and is fascinated by the streets of South Africa, where small entrepreneurs — untrained as marketers — apply the art and science of branding to their businesses.
Her monthly MarkLives column, “Homegrown”, explores everyday businesses and the lessons corporate marketers can learn from the streets of Mzansi. Share your own observations, photos and examples of marketing from SA’s roadside with @lynne_gordon on Twitter.
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