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What a simple act of kindness taught me about brand experience

Jenna Lauer
Managing Partner, LA
Hall & Partners

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The start of 2017 seemed a bit gloomy. Whether it’s a Trump-slump, hearing about humans being mistreated on airlines, watching culturally insensitive soda ads, or debating if the sugar content of the Unicorn Frappuccino is criminal to our society…so much of what I read and discuss with clients and colleagues seems a bit dark. Are brands in a dark place, or are humans? Or both? And what is this mood doing to our end consumer? How will this impact the brand experience and brands overall?

Of my 20 years in marketing, 15 have been spent on the service-provider side. I’ve worked in large ad agencies and insights shops. The start of this year is by far the strangest. Clients are overstretched and scared; thus, agency partners are stretched and scared. Decisions are being stalled, over-examined, and everyone wants more for less, faster.

This is all just part of the game. I can handle it. But the simple act of kindness seems to be missing on all sides. I can’t help but think this will have an impact on overall brand experience. Isn’t a great brand experience the true North Star for all marketers? Isn’t this what we’re all working towards? A wise Harvard Professor once summarized the service-profit chain to me by saying, “If you energize your people, you will make more money. It’s a fact!” Certainly, this means all the people around you and your brand.

“If you energize your people, you will make more money. It’s a fact!”

At a time when brands are squeezing profit margins by slashing service and quality, corporate kindness is even more critical. The way we act inside our organizations will be a reflection of our consumer-facing brands. Brands have zero choice in being transparent these days, and kindness is a desired human quality that all brands must encompass. We all need to break out of this grumpy slump and apply kindness to our daily lives. Our partnerships, colleagues, customers and ultimately our brands need us.

I recently noticed my own darkness when I was shown a simple act of kindness from a team member. They gave me a gift, a silk scarf, as a thank you. I didn’t do anything extraordinary to receive this gift. In fact, I was just running the business as I saw best for the team. Yet this colleague went out of their way to say thank you. This gesture made me glow for days, weeks…even enough to sit here and write about it now. It was a reminder that a simple gesture can make a gigantic positive impact. If humans react this way – and we’re all searching for emotional human truths in our marketing efforts – can’t we springboard this simplicity to brands?

Is a positive brand experience about being kind and authentic? Shouldn’t brands say thank you to their valued customers? Future customers? It seems so simple. Like a scarf. Simple, yet amazingly feel-good. I think I’ll go buy my boss a scarf. Scarves for my clients. Everyone a scarf! Actually, I think I’ll just try to say thank you more often.

We’re all so blessed to work in this fun and crazy marketing world. We have so much creative thinking to be applied to so many growing and successful brands. I look forward to bringing a little gratitude and sparkle back to the game and brand experience – all while wearing my fabulous new scarf.

Thank you.