As a nation, overall we’re a pretty altruistic lot. Annual events like Children in Need and Comic Relief are now firmly embedded in the UK calendar, symbolising our overall desire as a country to support those less fortunate than ourselves.
But how savvy are we when it comes to letting commercial brands take advantage of our good nature for their own ends? This week we’re preparing to be wowed, moved and delighted by a host of deliciously heart-warming stories that are sure to emerge from UK celebrations marking National Random Acts of Kindness Day this Friday.
But we’re also wondering if there will be any media savvy brands out there looking to jump on the bandwagon in a bid to turn the volume up on their own activities.
And looking at past activity, which brands have consciously engaged the public in ‘random’ acts of kindness to great benefit, which have accidently benefitted from their involvement in such activity, and which live by altruistic values but don’t choose to shout about it?
A 2014 survey by PR firm MSL Group found 83% of millennials “strongly believe business should be more active in solving the world’s biggest problems.” And a recent report from global communications company Havas Worldwide showed 73% of consumers believe companies have a responsibility to “do more than just generate profit.”
No wonder, then, that increasing numbers of businesses have chosen to provide target consumers with the opportunity to experience ‘random’ acts of kindness as a way of promoting their products in recent years.
In some instances, major brands have turned on the charm as a way of introducing damage control to a PR situation. Taxi firm Uber won hearts and minds with a series of tactical stunts in 2012 which included making door-to-door ice cream deliveries on the hottest day of the year following backlash against pricing surges, regulatory matters and various other issues which was so popular the promotion now runs annually and has created lots of social noise and media headlines in the process.
Last year airline JetBlue also chose to mark Mother’s Day by launching its first ever ‘fly babies’ flight, wherein fliers received 25% off their next flight every time a baby cried, with four cries equal to a free flight.
In more incidental circumstances, however, a seemingly off the cuff incident at a Disney theme park rewarded the entertainment giant with a photo which went viral when a security guard decided to ask a little girl for her autograph when she arrived dressed as one of its princesses.
Similarly, Enterprise Car Rental won over 120,000 likes on social media and drew the attention of several news channels in the USA when one of its employees took a mother’s twin boy in his arms while processing her rental following a hit and run accident because she didn’t have a double buggy. The brand then furthered the story by buying the mum a double stroller in return for her online praise, and also rewarding the employee with a financial reward which he then used to benefit a local junior sports club.
Which begs the question, do pre-meditated ‘random acts of kindness’ ever work well as a PR stunt? Or is it better to create a working environment within a business which pushes your employees to want to behave in a good-hearted manner both in life and while they’re at work? As consumers, we might be a charitable lot but we’re nobody’s fool.
I would certainly seem that the likes of Disney and Enterprise Car Rental have got it right when it comes to empowering their staff to carry out their work to the best of their ability – an approach which seems to have resulted in the PR taking care of itself. One for us all to think about as National Random Acts of Kindness Day approaches once again.